By: Michael Kimmelman

It is a nice surprise to find a celebration of amateur and professional art together in a book authored by the head art critic of the New York Times. The subtitle, On the Art of Life and Vice Versa explains Kimmelman's MO- to investigate how artists have integrated their lives into their art and how their art has become part of their lives. Here is the 'objective' of the book that Kimmelman describes in the first chapter:

This book is, in part, about how creating, collecting, and even just appreciating art can make a living a daily masterpiece. I don't mean that every day becomes perfect if we enjoy art. But having spent much of my own life looking at it, I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don't expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves...

He illustrates these points through various examples- he writes about Frank Hurley, a photographer who found himself stranded in the Antarctic in 1911, and documented his life, hardships, the ship that he just missed, and the landscape around him. He also writes about Charlotte Salomon, who detailed her life as a Jew living in pre-war Germany in a journal of writings and paintings. Now, we don't all lead lives in such extreme circumstances. However, he also writes about people in more ordinary situations, like a dentist who collect light bulbs. Through these examples he shows how people from all walks of life and through various means of artistic expression construct meaning in their lives through their unique approaches to their art.

He reminds his readers that your art should be informed by how you live because each of us have something important to say. This is a useful message for artists and art teachers, as we struggle to make meaningful art; and its something we all know, Kimmelman just makes that idea more accessible.


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