Exploring American Art

I feel grateful that so many of my relatives are interested in art because it’s given me the opportunity to accumulate a decent collection of art books before I had even enrolled in Marywood. Some of them are a bit dated, but I feel that they are nonetheless beneficial to my education as an Illustration major. I lacked the drive to really explore any of these books and give them the attention they deserved when I was in high school because when I wasn’t creating characters or artworks for my classes; I was preoccupied with homework or friends, and in the free time that I did have, I was not particularly interested in both reading and creating art. Now that I realize how much I love reading about art, especially art history, I’ve started dusting the books off my shelf and giving them the attention I should have years ago (my unwillingness to part with virtually anything has come in handy in this case!).

One book that I particularly enjoyed reading through was Essential History of American Art by Suzanne Bailey, which was published in 2002. I found this book to be intriguing because of my general interest in art history, but also because in my college courses we have focused on art history throughout the world and this book allowed for a closer look at the art done in a specific country. I definitely think that I would like to look into ‘history of art’ books that focus on other countries too, because the way in which art has developed in various countries is so different and fascinating. What is special is that the introduction ensures that it classifies why the artists or artworks are considered to be a part of the history of American art, because some artists, such as Marcel Duchamp (the mind behind one of my favorite works ever), were not necessarily born in America. It establishes that the general consensus is that America’s beginnings in the history of art starts in the seventeenth century, and goes on to summarize the history of American art up until the point of the book’s publication; it allowed for the reader to understand what they were going to read, while still leaving intrigue regarding the works included.

With this book, I think another thing that kept me interested in reading through it was that I did not read the table of contents and went in blindly. Therefore every time I would recognize an artist that I had already learned about in my classes, I would grow excited because it gave me the opportunity to learn something new about the artist or a particular work of theirs. As such, below I’ll share a particular work that I wish I had known about sooner. 

What I love about this piece by Sherrie Levine is that it is a play on the previously mentioned Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which I will always have a soft spot for because I had to argue why it was or wasn’t considered Art in my Art 101 class at Lackawanna College, and it has just stuck out to me as an artwork in general. Although the book says everything needed to be said about the piece, I do think that it offers a different perspective on an already thought provoking piece, and the way in which Levine managed to give new life and meaning to the work will forever amaze me.

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