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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer-by Mark Twain

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 Another visit with an American legend, Mark Twain. I'd read this book before, and it recently popped back into my mind as I was thinking about the purpose of the arts and literature, and history. To feel engaged with the past, and feel a voice of a former time period reach through and reassure you in your present world, cheering you up in your current circumstance, you can really become nostalgic for a time period you were never part of.      The innocence of the late nineteenth century, in rural southern America (politely disregarding the malicious racism for a literary experience), I love Twain's unapologetic individuality. He's deliberately teasing our notion of what literature is supposed to do. The children's, magical world he describes is accurate to all generations of children, playing pretend. Acting as pirates, or playing cops and robbers, or having superstitious rituals and "voodoo" magic; that moment before you really learn how the world works, and

"The Petrified Forest"- Classic Film Review

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 This is a 1936 noir and crime thriller starring the great Humphrey Bogart in his first major role that introduced him to audiences. It's based on a stage play by Robert E. Sherwood, and features the classic actors Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. The story was compact, fluid and tight, and there was never a moment of plot that wasn't saturated with some kind of dramatic tension that effortlessly handles you through the story. All of the things that we love about classic cinema that are lacking from today's popular culture content.     The story is about a series of strangers that get thrown together in a rural, secluded diner in the desert of Arizona. They are stranded there being held hostage by a notorious gangster by the name of Duke Mantee, (played to perfection by Humphrey Bogart. His edgy, gritty, "frustrated outlaw just on the verge of exploding" demeanor translated crystal clear on screen). Leslie Howard plays a wandering intellectual, with no more purpose

The Lives of Lucian Freud-The Restless Years 1922-168- William Feaver

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 The majority of my influences as an artist are definitely the greats of the past, whether they are European masters of Renaissance and Baroque, or an ancient empire of thinkers like the Egyptians or African sculptors. The arts in the west definitely take a sharp turn South after Picasso and Matisse, let's admit. Even if it might not be polite to say that, it's also not polite to make mediocre works of art and aggressively promote them in order to normalize your particular brand of ignorance, lowering the cultural standard, so you don't have to put in as much effort with your own work, even if it is all the rage these days.  So I guess we're even.     But this guy was an exception to the rule. Someone who decided that using influences like Ingres and Albrecht Duhrer are appropriate for a modern day artist. You don't have to follow the trend if the trend is overrated. He thought for himself with his figures, never yielding to the generic, one size fits all, are-you-s

Giorgio Vasari- Lives of the Renaissance Artists

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 While I've yet to delve into the larger expanded work, Vasari's lengthy description of the painters, sculptures and architects of the Renaissance, it was generous of someone out there to do a "highlight reel" of the major superstars in a condensed version for those of us art history nerds.      Consider this a "best of" compilation of Renaissance thinkers, or a "greatest hits" album. Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael are all given excerpts in this book, (which is not terribly long, about 160 pages,) that give glowing reviews of their work by Vasari himself. It was very inspiring to be reminded of the impact that one individual can have on the flow of history, and  how there are enough people in that contemporary society that understand the impact that some individuals will have on future generations and therefore deserve to be written down. Vasari is a total badass for being that guy who gave us the term "Renaissance."        He saw a b

The Agony and The Ecstasy - Irving Stone

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       It's been a while, but this book really pulled me in ,just as much as you would expect. I remember seeing the movie years ago, with Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II and good ol' Charleton Heston as Michelangelo Buonarotti. This book, however, unlike the movie, covers all of Michelangelo's career, from the teenage years as an apprentice onward. The language sets up such a beautiful rhythm, that there are certain portions of the book, where the author is going on and on, and you wouldn't mind if this went on forever. He takes us through the major landmark pieces too, like the David statue and the Sistine Chapel, from concept to finish. The emotional journey of creating work, and all those little love letters to art-making and the inspiration process, Stone creates those emotions pretty accurately.      Even though this is a historical fiction, it's fun to speculate on the inner workings, and emotional journey of one of these big timers in our culture. Someone wh

Emma - The Finale

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  I was so taken with the audio book of Emma that I'd borrowed from the library for my long commute to OTIS College, that I decided I wanted to actually "read-read" the rest of this book. Having finally completed it only yesterday, I was pulled in even closer by the experience that Austen creates.     I think the analysis of a person's work has so many levels to it, that we don't properly discuss in all areas, due to how appropriate or inappropriate the tone of your thesis might feel towards your specific environment. The academic discussion of a person's work has certain rules to it, (as I learned while at Pratt and OTIS) based on "what we like to hear ourselves talk about, and what worldview we are trying to assert over the community as being the more sophisticated, polished off, thorough and nuanced worldview." Therefore, certain interpretations, of an artist's intent, specific to this individual might get (unfairly) left off the table in fav

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence- A Story of Botticelli

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     While this type of cheesy romance is not usually my genre, and I normally wouldn't even admit to having devoured an entire book cover to cover about this type of drama, preferring to maintain my masculine dignity and stride on with chest out, I did enjoy hearing this fictionalized version of the inspiration behind some of history's greatest paintings.      The story is told from the perspective of one Simonetta Vespucci, as she is betrothed to her husband, Marco Vespucci, during Renaissance times, in Florence during the reign of the Medici family. She is hailed as an astonishing beauty with no equal, and is adored everywhere she goes, has men fighting over her, and lining up at her balcony to sing songs to her almost every day from the street below. (Pretty girl problems, right?) We follow her marriage to Marco Vespucci, (cousin of Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named) from her teenage years into her early twenties, before she was taken ill with a form of tubercul

The Real Thing.

   I've been thinking about music lately, and the gift it is to our existence, and how it has influenced the direction of my own visual art as it opens up new doors in me, and gives us all a clear view into the undeniable potency of the human identity.     When it comes to music especially, there is so much fake stuff out there, and so many people who are fooled by it, if only momentarily. The people that just make random "exciting sounding noises" at spaced out intervals, to try and get us to "tingle" receive much more appreciation than they deserve. Cute little noises that make me "tingle" are not art, not music, and have no relation to the human identity, just a way of getting people to notice you as a performer, long enough for you to make some cash.      It really is too bad that so many people don't know the real thing when they see it, perhaps because they don't know any better. I've met those people, sat in classrooms with them,

Lacrimosa on a Summer Evening

     I've taken to this new ritual, that I'm hoping will see some healthy mental health results. (oh, by the way, I'm not at OTIS anymore.)     Every time the sun is setting, and the sky is dipping into blackness, I like to be out and about, taking a stroll with the sunset. I've always felt as though it punctuates the day nicely, after the work is done and the mental focus is spent, it's like you are giving a little bit of thanks to the day for being what it was, and granting you the opportunities that it did. By going for a walk in that last 45 minutes when the sky dips from dark blue to black, you are watching the day go to sleep, showing that you don't take it for granted, and can feel a bit more in sync with the universe. At least, that's the way I feel about it.     And as I was walking, I was listening to a few selections from Mozart's piece, "Requiem" entitled "Confutatis Maledictus" and the following "Lacrimosa." T

Chekhov 1889-1891

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    Somehow, some way, I've been able to keep this guy in the rotation of readings, along with the OTIS creative writing MFA assignments. Keeping something close by that you trust, when facing the demons and mind games of everyday life, that is what keeps you from losing yourself out there. This guy helps me remember who I am.     By the way, I won't be writing any more reviews on the books they assign at OTIS. They started to get way too depressing, all about bigotry, racism, social injustice, and all the intolerant jerks of society, blech... Kind of started bringing me down. Plus, all the writing started to sound the same. Not a whole lot of variety of voices or execution with these things. But Chekhov keeps me grounded.     There's something about art making that I think we all overlook, and that's how when you're looking at a creation by someone else, you are getting a lesson in how they, as an individual, experience this medium when they are engaging with it