Art for Reading’s Sake by KellyAnne Terry-Executive Director

I recently visited Seattle, WA and had the opportunity to visit the Seattle Art Museum, or SAM as it is affectionately called. SAM houses a little bit of everything, from all time periods, walks of life and artistic styles. SAM prides itself on the diversity it brings forth, and I particularly liked an exhibit that showed how water and story can be combined through the art of the aboriginal people of Australia. Also, the artistic skills of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest were intriguing, including the totem poles (or house posts) and colorful wooden masks of animals to be worn during dancing ceremonies. These pieces of art really did tell a story, and made me want to know more, such as who the person was behind the story. There must be some element of history, or inspiration, or life experience that spurred these artists on.

The appreciation of art is done not only by viewing it, but also by reading about it. I am a fan of historical fiction, and enjoy reading about a certain time period that I know nothing about. When viewing the aboriginal work at SAM, I had no idea how the metaphor of water was used artistically to represent life. Yet it seemed to perfectly fit. At the library we hold many historical fiction books that focus on art, the artist, the art movement or really, just art for reading’s sake.

One of my favorites is The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro where real people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner make an appearance during a heavy political time in 1940 New York City. Working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) painting murals, our protagonist, Alizee Benoit, suddenly disappears. This haunting story on the cusp of WWII could very well be true.

Around the same time period, real life artist and unconventional Lee Miller is The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin. Miller was a war correspondent and photographer during WWII, and was actually the person who photographed the Holocaust survivors as they were liberating the camps. In this story we see Lee as a very complicated woman through the eyes of Nora, her childhood friend. Of course, we become enthralled with the Nora and her story as well.

New to the library is The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. This story shows us three lives across centuries touched by a rare painting from the Dutch Golden Age. With wonderfully drawn characters (pun intended) and a spark of suspense, this one will surely be one to pass on to your friends, artists or not.

A few more historical fiction books that deal with art and the artist are The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant, Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keefe by Dawn Tripp, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, and Still Life by Louise Penny.totem

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