Arts eNewsletter for May

As winter settles in maybe its time to consider an indoor hobby? Food photography? Mending? There’s plenty to consider in this month’s Arts newsletter.

Library News


This month we start by showcasing three books that reflect on the world of contemporary photography, its major players and current themes, and then continue our monthly journey on a more pragmatic note — looking at titles that will help you improve your own photography — before finally taking a leisurely stroll along the cobbled streets of the coveted French capital.

syndetics-lcCindy Sherman
You cannot get a more up-to-date publication on this “grande dame” of contemporary photography than this comprehensive retrospective produced as the catalog of an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art from Feb to June 2012 and further afield from June 2013. The book reviews her most important series chronologically through high quality reproductions. The introductory essays by the exhibition curator, Eva Respini, and art historian Johanna Burton together with an interview between Sherman and John Waters give depth and perspective to the artist’s impressive body of work and the themes that pervade it.

syndetics-lcFood photography
This practical guide presents in a clear and simple way the basics on getting the right camera equipment — lights, lenses, reflectors, etc. — and takes you through the key photographic principles of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Lighting and composition and food styling are explained and post-production techniques illustrated. Whether you want to improve your food photography to create vibrant blog posts or just want to improve your photography techniques from shooting to post-processing in general, this book is a good tool along the way.

syndetics-lcSaudi Arabia by the first photographers / William Facey with Gillian Grant.
“The photographs in this book were taken between 1860 and 1950, at a crucial period just before the ancient way of life in the region was swept away. The selection draws on all the known photographic collections, from the earliest travel photographers, through to the 1950s. These remarkable images are accompanied by historian William Facey’s excellent text which places them in their historical context, plus detailed commentary on photographic techniques by photographic archivist Gillian Grant.” (Library Catalogue)

syndetics-lcThe lost photographs of Captain Scott : unseen photographs from the legendary Antarctic Expedition / David M. Wilson.
“The legend of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who perished with his fellow explorers on their return from the South Pole on March 29 1912 (100 years ago this year!), is an enduring one. Until now, the history of the ill-fated Terra-Nova expedition has been pieced together from Scott’s own diaries and those of his companions, the sketches of “Uncle Bill” Wilson, and the celebrated photographs of Herbert Ponting. Yet, for the final, fateful months of their journey, Scott also photographed this extraodinary scientific endeavour himself. Trained by Ponting, and faced with extreme climatic conditions and practical challenges at the dawn of photography, Scott achieved a series of images, remarkable for both their technical mastery and their poignancy. In this landmark book, the photographs are catalogues and published together for the first time, paying tribute to the last great expeditions of the Heroic Age of Artic Exploration.” (adapted from Publisher’s description)

syndetics-lcClover Adams : a gilded and heartbreaking life / Natalie Dykstra.
“Clover, an inquisitive, loving, fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin, married at 28 the older and soon-to-be-eminent historian Henry Adams. She thrived in her role as an intimate to political insiders in Gilded Age Washington, where she was valued for her wit and taste by such artistic luminaries as Henry James and H. H. Richardson. Clover so clearly possessed, as one friend wrote, “all she wanted, all this world could give.” And yet there is a mystery: why did Clover, having embarked on an exhilarating self-taught course of photography in the spring of 1883, end her life less than three years later by drinking from a vial of a chemical she used in developing her own photographs? The answer is revealed through Natalie Dykstra’s original discoveries regarding the thirteen-year Adams marriage. Dykstra illuminates Clover’s enduring stature as a woman betrayed as she untangles the complex truth of her shining and impossible marriage.” (taken from Publisher’s description)

syndetics-lcVivian Maier : street photographer / edited by John Maloof ; foreword by Geoff Dyer.
Were it not for the accidental find by historian John Maloof of 100,00 photographs hidden in a storage locker, no one would have discovered the amazing work of this nanny during the day, self-taught photographer in her leisure time, who scouted the streets of countless cities in her quest for human urban tableaux. An outsider and observer all her life, she remained invisible until fate decided otherwise. In this book her impressive body of work is presented in print form for the first time. Also highly recommended is the Vivian Maier website , a brilliant showcase of her photography and further facts about this intriguing photographer. And finally, watch out for the documentary film “Finding Vivian Maier” currently in production.

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Satisfy your creative urge and experiment with new ideas and tips for making fabulous handmade gifts and home projects, without emptying your wallet! This month’s book selection offers you new techniques and step-by-step instructions how to do your own knitting, sewing and beading projects. Get creative and have fun!

Syndetics book coverWeekend handmade : more than 40 projects + ideas for inspired crafting / Kelly Wilkinson ; photographs by Thayer Allyson Gowdy.
“In Weekend Handmade, author Kelly Wilkinson encourages readers to celebrate the joy of crafting, both for the satisfaction of making something by hand, and because the finished items serve as reminders of time taken to slow down and create – no matter the day of the week. The book is organized into three sections: Make offers projects to wear or decorate with; Grow presents projects inspired by gardens, fields, and farmer’s markets; and Gather spotlights projects that enrich casual get-togethers. With clear, step-by-step instructions, every project in “Weekend Handmade” –from aprons, tablecloths, and marmalade to a memory box and a chandelier–can be completed in a few hours or over the course of a weekend.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKnitted toy travels : 15 wild knitting projects from across the globe / Laura Long.
“Take a trip around the world with this adorable book and with Ed, of course. Ed is the explorer who goes for an adventurer and meets knitted animals along the way. And he’s got the cutest little knees!” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverMend it better / Kristin M. Roach.
“Craft blogger Roach’s first book is an excellent addition to any sewer’s collection. Instead of presenting another plethora of patterns, she seeks to empower her readers by teaching the skills they’ll need to mend nearly any piece of clothing, from ripped buttonholes to torn hems. While there’s no substitute for learning in person, the publisher and author should be commended on creating a book with excellent, clear photographs that show, step by step, how to complete basic repairs. The chapter Stitch Smarts, which covers everything from the blind hem stitch to the little-known prick stitch, is particularly outstanding. Roach also presents a few patterns, most from other crafters, that provide inspiration towards more mending, less discarding of torn clothing. With the exception of the odd placement of two projects before instructions on the stitches required to make them, the book unfolds in an accessible manner; great layout (and lovely photos) provide eye candy. This is the rare sewing book that will be pulled off the shelf for reference again and again. Full color photos and illustrations, 13 patterns.” – (adapted from Publisher Weekly summary)

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Cutting edge art, old and new – my personal pick for April: Skull style!

Syndetics book coverThe art of not making : the new artist/artisan relationship / Michael Petry.
“Artist-author Petry’s book challenges readers with the dynamic definition of art as a confrontation between conceptual and material constructs. Prefaced with a historical introduction to Marcel Duchamp, the book is organized, ironically, by materials: “Glass,” “Metal,” “Stone,” “Textiles,” and “Other Materials.” Each section presents brief historical context and a selection of relevant artists’ work. Included are artworks by Ai Weiwei, Louise Bourgeois, Grayson Perry, and Chris Burden, among others. Brilliant images accompany detailed captions that connect to the theme of “unmade” conceptual making. Encompassing definitions of craft, art, and design, this volume offers both thematic breadth and specific examples.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCharacters : cultural stories revealed through typography / Stephen Banham ; foreword by Rick Poynor.
“Type and signage surround us. They are part of our daily lives and the history of whichever city we happen to live in. Whether old or new, each sign has a story to tell. In Characters, Stephen Banham has meticulously researched the signage and typography of a city to present an exuberant collection of quirky, poignant and often funny stories. They range from how a callout to mend a burnt fuse on a neon sign led to the discovery of over 100 musical instruments hidden away in a train station tower for 50 years to the sign that had to be removed for eliciting illegal gambling. From architecture and advertising to cultural history and much more, Characters is a book that will appeal to historians, designers and typophiles alike.” – (adapted from summary)

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Classical Music

There’s nothing trivial about these recent picks from our classical music collection, which highlight some new and very interesting titles in the much-loved genre of music lists and music history.

Syndetics book coverA natural history of the piano : the instrument, the music, the musicians–from Mozart to modern jazz, and everything in between / Stuart Isacoff.
“In this engrossing study, pianist Isacoff (Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization) combines basic history of the construction and sound of pianos with witty discourses on composers and performers and their cultural context. Dividing the subject into thematic sections such as “Combustibles” or “Rhythmitizers” brings together similar stylists from across the centuries, while certain major schools such as that emanating from Russia are given separate treatment. Although the field of piano history books is already crowded, this title stands out for its distinctive inclusion of jazz figures such as Duke Ellington and for long quotations from artists ranging from Vladimir Horowitz to Billy Joel. Isacoff addresses the role of women musicians and brings to the fore valuable if long-forgotten names as well. The many photographs and drawings lend much humanity; diagrams and selected musical examples, contributor biographies, and sections of notes are all useful.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverIllegal harmonies : music in the modern age / Andrew Ford.
Illegal Harmonies is an engaging, facinating and very accessible introduction to 20th and 21st century art music:
“A delightful and informative history of modern music. Harmony is created by bringing sounds together. In music lessons, we learn how to do this in a formal way: we learn about chords and keys, and we are given rules for using them. This is the textbook way; this is legal harmony. Everything else – including the sounds that constantly surround us, those of ticking clocks, dogs, traffic, birdsong and aeroplanes – is illegal harmony. Illegal Harmonies charts the course of music over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, linking it to developments in literature, theatre, cinema and the visual arts, and to popular music from Irving Berlin to The Beatles to rap. The result is a stimulating, provocative and always informative cultural history.” (Syndetics summary)

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