At the beginning of Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 publication, The Great Good Place, he quotes Max Lerner talking about the “quest for community” in his 1957 writing, America as a Civilization. This “quest for community” is at the heart of a gracefully working society. In his book, Oldenburg discusses how we fulfill it, through what is called “the third place,” that is, places we spend our time other than work or home. According to him, these places are where we level in class, form communication skills through informal conversation, meet friends, relax our “professional” selves, and overall … have fun!
In laymen’s terms, Oldenburg is telling us to go to the bar, the coffee shop, the bookstore, the hair salon, and in the case of Colorado Springs… the library?!
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, El Pomar Foundation approved the Pikes Peak Library District for a $750,000 challenge grant to go to the Penrose location. PPLD plans to use this money to become one of these “third places” by "providing exactly what you need, in the format you desire, at the very moment it will benefit you most," and, as long as they are able to meet the challenge of raising $3.15 million by Jan. 1, 2016, it sure looks like they’ll be able to.
Already, the library has been working toward becoming a 21st century library (http://ppld.org/21stCenturyLibrary.) Renovations are being made to existing buildings; a completely new location is being opened in 2014 at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive; improvements to teen areas are in the works; and a series of rearrangements with offices, special collections and Adult Literacy departments will allow for a more efficient use of space. The East Library will open its entire second floor as a mammoth creative computer commons. Sounds like a media wonderland.
I spoke with PPLD spokesperson Travis Duncan, and Dolores Fowler, executive officer of the PPLD Foundation. Both seemed ecstatic about the new coming improvements. When asked about how they planned to meet the challenge of raising $3.15 million Duncan said, “It’s a challenge we are putting to the community for the 21st century library. We want the community to get involved, and to tell us what they want to see.”
Fowler mentioned “strengthening a real partnership between the library and the community, families and friends, more grant writing, offering opportunities to sponsor or donate items, name rooms, naming the coming creative computer commons, and much more. “
Lots of book news in my inbox recently.
• According to Publisher's Weekly, author Marie Lu, to whom we introduced to you here in March, will launch a Facebook game in December called Cities of Legend. It's based on her debut novel, Legend. The second book in her trilogy, Prodigy, will release in January.
• The Colorado Center for the Book is now accepting entries for the Colorado Book Awards. Per the release:
The Colorado Book Awards recognize the best books by Colorado authors, editors, publishers, illustrators and photographers published in 2012. Look for information on our Finalist Event in the spring. Winners will be recognized at the annual Colorado Book Awards held in Aspen in June 2013.
Eligible books include any work published by a Colorado author, illustrator, editor, publisher or photographer, and include hardcover, paperback and e-published books. All entry forms should be submitted online, but payment and copies can be provided online or through surface mail. Past categories have included: anthology, biography, children's literature, creative nonfiction, fiction, genre fiction, history, juvenile literature, nonfiction, pictorial, poetry, and young adult. It is acceptable to submit your own work.
For more information on how to submit, or to recommend a book published in 2012, please visit coloradohumanities.org or contact Christine Goff at email@example.com or 303.894.7951 x21.
• Left Coast Crime, the annual mystery/crime/thriller writing conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, will be held in Colorado Springs in 2013. The Cheyenne Mountain Resort will host the four-day event from March 21-24. Keynote speakers include New York Times bestselling authors Craig Johnson and Laura Lippman. Learn more here.
• Registration is now open for the 21st annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Keynotes for this year's April 19-21 event at the Marriott include Libba Bray, Barry Eisler, David Liss and Amber Benson. Learn more about both the conference and the hosting organization, Pikes Peak Writers, here.
From the listings desk: People were so tough back in the day. Before OTC N-SAIDS, before modern psychotherapy, before much of anything, people just had to suffer.
But not unwillingly.
They tried, doing the best they could with what they had, and while we scoff or pity certain methods or medical attitudes today, it's not the whole story. See, for instance, what clean, dry air did to tuberculosis, and by extension, what the consumption cure did to foster our fair city. (And just think how barbaric our treatments will look a mere 75 years from now.)
That's just my take on it, but for a truly researched approach, pick up a copy of the brand new Doctors, Disease, and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region by John Stansfield. The book, released by the Pikes Peak Library District's Special Collections Department, delves into "tales of the pioneers, traders, and military personnel who were both the purveyors and the recipients of needed care," as well as "the women and men who practiced medicine in this region, discussions about internationally significant developments for the treatment of tuberculosis and cancer, the impacts of epidemics on the community, mental health issues, and poverty."
The book will be officially released tomorrow at a party at the Carnegie Reading Room at the Penrose Library (20 N. Cascade Ave.) beginning at 2 p.m. Along with the signing and requisite refreshments, Stansfield and PPLD staff will perform a reader's theater playlet of "The Widow's Herd," which is based on a story by Dr. Charles Fox Gardiner.
Copies of the book are available for $24.95, but will be 15 percent off at the event, which is free and no RSVPs are required.
For another book on all things medical and western, click here.
If you read this week's cover story on Jason Lewis, you might have noticed that the timing was inspired, in part, by Lewis' book release.
Typically when we run book-related stories, they show up as a Fine Print feature, with short book reviews attached.
Well, "Lewis and the arc" grew into a larger feature, and, as such, our Short Stories this month have a found a home here, on the IndyBlog.
Today, the Business of Art Center announced that Black Cat Books, the Manitou Springs book store and wine bar owned by new BAC executive director Natalie Johnson, has moved out of its space in downtown Manitou and into the BAC.
Johnson opened Black Cat seven years ago, and in the past year or so merged it with the boutique clothing and accessories store safron of Manitou, which remains in the old location. Black Cat now takes the place of the BAC's gift shop, located in the 513 building, near the entrance. It will keep regular store hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
In addition to selling wares, Black Cat will serve as a space to host events, one of the first of which will take place Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the form of a "banned book reading," which honors Banned Book Week.
It's hard not to be a bit skeptical of specialized travel guides, such as Art Travel Guide: Must-See Contemporary Art Sites Across the USA, released this May by Connie Terwilliger. How soon before this information is outdated? Why did Terwilliger choose this location and not that?
Yet it seems Terwilliger — surprise — knows what she's talking about. She could be an art historian with her impressive familiarity with and understanding of the subject. For one, she recommends earthworks like Michael Heizer's "Double Negative" in Nevada, Walter De Maria's "Lightning Field" in New Mexico; museums like Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (known for its Henry Darger collection and "room"); events like the Pageant of the Masters; and projects like Watts Towers and Coral Castle, built by highly driven, deeply mysterious, and usually lone, artists.
Those looking for traditional artwork won't find much in this guide. It's not all serious, minimal art (see the cover for proof), but Terwilliger focuses on modern and contemporary fare, skipping big institutions that most guides recommend in favor of smaller, off-the-beaten-path types, like Dia:Beacon of Beacon, N.Y. Having been there once myself, I can say it's not for the faint of heart: It's respectable and challenging collection includes works by the likes of Joseph Beuys (the reason for my visit), Richard Serra, John Chamberlain and Sol LeWitt. Of Dia:Beacon, Terwilliger writes, "This museum is heaven."
Aside from the highly designed Frank Gehry spots, Terwilliger favors places like Dia:Beacon, which are refurbished factories converted to museums. Not only are these places huge — Dia clocks in at 240,000 square feet — they are also usually home to the most unconventional artwork. See her choice of destinations: MASSMoCA, The Mattress Factory, City Museum and PS 1.
While the book design is friendly, and built to take the beating of travel, some of the images are a bit fuzzy and the writing comes with a fair share of errors. (Not a big deal, just a disservice to the effort that obviously went into her research.) Those aside, thanks to this book I'm now deeply intrigued by the Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota. This new-to-me attraction is home to Melanie VanHouten's, "Reclamation," a beautiful and bittersweet work consisting of a shack raised by cables off the ground, preserving, it seems, the skeletal memory of a childhood home.
Buy the book here.
The Aspen Summer Words literary festival and retreat culminated today with the Colorado Book Awards ceremony, honoring the state's best in writing and illustration. A total of 169 entries were whittled down to just 12 winners — one for each category. Additionally, Margaret Coel was honored with a lifetime achievement award for her "significant contribution to the Colorado literary community."
None of the winners this year are from the Pikes Peak region, unlike last year, when Kirk Farber took home the prize for literary fiction. However, Janice Gould, local poet and professor, was a finalist for her work, "Doubters and Dreamers."
Her other books of poetry include Beneath My Heart, Alphabet (a chapbook) and Earthquake Weather. She is the co-editor, with Dean Rader, of Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry. She is an Associate Professor in Women’s and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
— Colorado Humanities
LoDo's Tattered Cover will host a signing celebration with the winners at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21. If you can make it, you'll get a chance to shmooze with not just any local authors, but award-winning ones.
Check out the list of all the winners after the jump.
We first met Abby Murray in 2010, when we profiled her newly created Writers Reading series. The event has since moved locations several times, but later in the summer will undergo a bigger change: Murray will leave Colorado Springs to get her doctorate at Binghamton University in New York, and turn the now every-other-month event over to a fellow instructor at Pikes Peak Community College.
"I’m really just going because I feel like, even though I finished my MFA, I’m not quite done having people tell me what to read, I guess," says the tattooed and pierced literary professor. "I just don’t feel like I’m done."
A frequent mover due to her husband's military service, Murray's a published poet who has lived in Seattle, Alaska, Vancouver, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio. Then she moved here and started the series where anybody can sign up to read their written work before an audience (with a featured author capping each event).
Still, it was no small task. Actually ...
"It was [like] pushing a boulder uphill — like, I got a lot of resistance. I don’t really want to name names, because I feel like I’m still a little bit bitter about it," she says hotly. "So I don’t want to name names, but I did get a lot of people saying they didn’t want to help me; a lot of people saying it would be waste of time; a lot of people saying that I could spend my time more efficiently elsewhere; and a lot of people who just didn’t return my calls, and then who later I heard, once I became more active in the literary scene, heard about them talking about how important community is to them. And I was like, 'Really ...'"
In a wide-ranging interview held last week at Montague's, Murray talked about teaching, the future for local poets, the environment for aspiring authors, and what it means (and doesn't) to be an Army wife.
ON THE FUTURE OF LOCAL POETRY: "It seems like more people are gradually becoming interested. ... Yeah, I think people are starting to get more interested in it; I think it’s coming out of the slump of, ‘Why would I study that? It’s not gonna get me a job.’ And people are just now starting to realize ‘OK, I have a job, but I’m not happy.’"
ON HER FAVORITE FEATURED AUTHOR: "What’s cool about the series is that literally every reading, I’m always so nervous; I feel like I’m gonna throw up beforehand, and every time I leave I’m like, ‘That reading was better than last month.’ But, at the same time, I hate those PC, bullshit answers that don’t answer the question, so I think Kitty Jospe was out here in March of this year. She flew out from Rochester.
"It still amazes me I’m paying these people in [homemade] jam; and I’ve had people fly in from Boston, Rochester.
"And she was here and I feel like she got the most warm response from the audience. People really felt like they connected to her poetry."
ON THE SPRINGS' LITERARY SCENE: "I don’t get the impression that authors are helping each other very much in Colorado Springs. I feel like everybody’s more or less in it for themselves — and you kind of have to be. It’s become really cutthroat, and it’s become really, ‘I want my five minutes in the sun.’ To me it was very hard to get started here, because I really wanted a reading series where people were just nice to each other — play nice, like, I just want people to play fucking nice."
ON THE POETRY WEST ORGANIZATION: "They’ve been the most helpful in terms of the poetry scene. In terms of Colorado Springs, they had every reason to not be helpful to me — I don’t write like they do, I’m younger than they are — and they have been nothing but welcoming. They read in the open mic, they publish in their newsletter the upcoming readings; they’re always available when I e-mail them."
ON LOCAL CREATIVE MOTIVATION: "What’s weird here, and I think it has something to do with the environmental beauty that we’re living in in this town: it’s really difficult to live here and not have some good ideas for writing. It’s really difficult to live here and be immune to kick-ass stories and really good poetry. You know, we can kind of observe the country and what it’s doing from its center, so I think there are people here who just have top-notch, brilliant ideas.
"The problem, I think — according to me, a 29-year-old, I-don’t-have-any-right-to-prescribe-my-opinion-anyway — but according to me, there’s a lack of ambition here. I think people have really great ideas — nobody wants to lead. Nobody wants to do work, I guess, or talk to each other."
ON BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE: "I’m not really an active part in the whole Army-wife scene, mostly because I really don’t know how to go about it. It’s another culture. It’s really another lifestyle. It’s really weird, because in some ways it’s incredibly limited. Like, you’re allowed — just a warning: I’m being an asshole here, and I know it — you’re allowed to have certain personality traits. There’s, like, a certain line that you’re not allowed to cross as an Army wife."
ON HER NEW BOOK: "But that said, I think there are a lot of poems in the book that speak to a lot of what wives are going through, and not just me. The feeling like — it is really something else to wonder if your spouse is dead, like, every day when you wake up. Like, you know, ‘Haven’t talked to him in 12 hours, I wonder if something happened.’ And, like, every time you turn onto your street wondering if there’s gonna be a Dodge Durango parked in front of your house. So I think the poems aren’t just for, like, liberal, anti-Army-wife types. I think it kind of speaks to everybody.
"At least I hope it does."
A few book-related activities going on:
First up, on Saturday, June 2, photojournalist Steven Clevenger will host a signing and presentation on his book America's First Warriors: Native Americans and Iraq.
You can listen to a 2011 NPR interview with Clevenger, who's been covering wars for almost four decades, and see a slideshow of his work here. Then head to Poor Richard's Bookstore from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday to meet the man.
Next up, local author Robert Spiller is running a deal on the Kindle version of Radical Equations, the fourth book in his Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series.
Starting Friday, Radical Equations will be available online here for just 99 cents. If you're looking for a light, summer read, this series featuring a high school math teacher (written by a former math teacher) with multiple Colorado references might be just what you need. Now's a good time to check out this series, since Spiller is plugging away on the fifth book, Napier's Bones, and plans to release it in 2013.
Third, for those of you with kiddos, Pikes Peak Library District's summer reading program starts June 1 and runs through July 31. Learn more about how your children can win prizes, just for reading, here.
And finally, less book-related though still library-involved, PPLD now has the first season of the PBS hit Downton Abbey available to card-holders, for free. Learn more here. The video-loaning is a part of the library's OverDrive Virtual collection, which includes not only video, but eBooks and audio books.
The phrase "Happy Memorial Day" — which today finds its way into newspaper headlines across the country, as well as websites from ESPN to perezhilton.com — can be seen as:
• a more specific variation on the theme, "Happy Three-Day Weekend";
• a reflexive symptom of Hallmark-fueled desensitization;
• or an expression of the indomitable spirit of the American people.
In any case, the holiday itself is an observance that dates back the American Civil War, a remembrance of those lost in the theater of war that remains all too real and all too relevant to this day.
This past Friday, I received an uncorrected proof of Donald Anderson's Gathering Noise From My Life: A Camouflaged Memoir. Anderson is a professor of English and Writer in Residence at the U.S. Air Force Academy whom I'd interviewed, along with his student Jason Armagost, for a cover story a couple years ago. Armagost was in the lead aircraft of the "Shock and Awe" mission that signaled the beginning of the Iraq war.
Here is a passage from Anderson's memoir, which threads his own draft-age experience with those of young soldiers today. The book will be published by University of Iowa Press in September. Scroll down further for a video of Richard Thompson's "Meet on the Ledge" that may provide some measure of solace on this most poignant of holidays.
"Draft lottery '#1' for the 1970 drawing is July 9: my birthday. I immediately join Air Force ROTC. My plan is to stay clear of the army (more soldiers being buried than airmen). And if forced to Vietnam, I mean to be forced there as a lieutenant — an officer in charge of his future. The month I sign up for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Pentagon releases to the public news of 34 deaths in 209 incidents in Vietnam of officer "fraggings" — that is, U.S. officers being attacked by their own soldiers. Attacks on officers by their own troops in time of war reached unprecedented proportions in Vietnam, with some historians reporting as many as 2,000 incidents a year.
A female air force captain, recently returned from Afghanistan, rightly spoke of the youth of the troops: "All they want to do is eat pop tarts and play video games and all we do is give them grenades.'"
Care to join me in a spot of summer speed-reading?
This morning brought the announcement that The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is the official pick for All Pikes Peak Reads 2012. The powerhouse author, famed for her engaging public appearances and devoted fan base, will be visiting Colorado Springs for the Sept. 14 kickoff of APPR.
Some readers will have already started hyperventilating with excitement at this point, while others (like me) will be casting their minds back to high school book reports on Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale. Sure, it was topical and preachy, but it was a blisteringly good story with lots of crunchy plot and themes that kept haunting us for weeks. Atwood has perfected her M.O. since then — her 2000 novel The Blind Assassin won the Man Booker Prize — but the experience remains much the same. Where Tale creates a dark thrill ride out of Reagan-era social politics, Flood tangles with our current vision of the apocalypse: environmental collapse.
In keeping with All Pikes Peak Reads criteria, The Year of the Flood combines broad appeal and easy readability for readers as young as 12, while incorporating themes relevant to the Pikes Peak region and a plot suitable for stage adaptation.
In true Atwood fashion, it also happens to be set in a little-too-near future in which human error has set off a cataclysmic disaster that has changed the fabric of life as we know it. For fans of a certain post-apocalyptic blockbuster novel-turned-film, that’s standard fare, but where Suzanne Collins titillates and terrifies, Atwood tends to prefer to galvanize and provoke.
Or put it a brighter way — she’s out to get us thinking and acting for positive change.
The Year of the Flood is tied to this year’s nonfiction and teen selections (see below) by the theme of survival, a more positive bookend to the annual PPLD Regional History Symposium’s theme of disaster.
The most compelling stories to come out of disaster are those of survival, says PPLD executive director Paula Miller. “And not only survival, but finding ways to thrive.”
For residents of the Pikes Peak region, Miller says, the biggest touchstone for these themes is the environment. “Sustainability has hit this community in a big way,” she said at the announcement ceremony this morning, where winners and sponsors of the city’s Sustainability Snapshot Contest, including SunShare, Old Town Bike Shop, Greener Corners and the Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition, were also honored.
As All Pikes Peak Reads takes off this fall, the library district will be partnering with several local environment- and sustainability-focused organizations, including the Trails and Open Space Coalition and the Pikes Peak Sustainable Business Network, to explore the ways local residents can thrive in caring for their community, as a community. A complete schedule of All Pikes Peak Reads 2012 events will be published this fall in the Indy and on PPLD’s website.
In the meantime, we’ll need all the head start we can get to digest Atwood’s 40-plus works of fiction, poetry and critique before she hits town in September. Grab your spot on the library holds list while you can!
2012 All Pikes Peak Reads
September 14 - October 31, 2012
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (teen selection)
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (children's selection)
The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley (nonfiction selection)
From the land of wheat and the Wizard of Oz comes help from the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan., in helping the Springs-based Space Foundation get its visitors center project off to a good start.
The Cosmosphere is loaning a collection of 1970s-era Soviet space artifacts, which will be displayed at its headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive.
Since the foundation moved last year into the building, it's been gradually settling in and has a generous amount of space to dedicate to a visitors center and museum.
The Russian items will be on display for three years starting Aug. 1, after making an appearance at the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, which closed on Thursday.
On display will be one of the few Lunokhod lunar rovers ever to be displayed outside of the former Soviet Union; a half-scale model, constructed in the Soviet Union, of the Luna 16 Robotic Probe, the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth, and a prototype of a Sokol (Falcon) Space Suit-K, a pressure suit that was used for on-ground engineering and thermal vacuum tests during Soviet cosmonaut training.
The foundation said in a press release:
"Initially, we will place these three extraordinary artifacts, which the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center has so generously loaned to us, in our extended lobby area," said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. "Then, we'll move them into the El Pomar Space Gallery, as part of the first phase of development of our visitors center.
"We're particularly excited because these artifacts represent a rich part of space history that few Americans have been exposed to," he continued. "We are very pleased to be able to display some of the meaningful contributions the Soviet Union made to space exploration."
The Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center is a museum and educational facility in Hutchinson, Kan., that displays and restores spaceflight artifacts and offers educational programs and camps. It is one of only three museums to display flown spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and it has the second-largest collection of flown Soviet and U.S. space artifacts in the world. In addition to being a destination, the Cosmosphere also sponsors traveling exhibits and loans artifacts to other museums and organizations. For more information, go to www.cosmo.org.
"These artifacts on display in our booth at the National Space Symposium are exemplary of the unique and inspiring collection accumulated during our 50-year history and housed at the Kansas Cosmosphere," said Richard Hollowell, interim president & CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. "We are excited to continue our mission of honoring the past and inspiring the future of space exploration by sharing these fascinating artifacts with visitors to the Space Foundation through an annually renewable three-year loan agreement.
In a related development, industry leader Northrop Grumman Corp. has donated $375,000 to create a science center and teaching lab at the Space Foundation's headquarters.
The press release explains:
To be known as the Northrop Grumman Science Center, the facility will include a Science on a Sphere™ laboratory and a teaching facility that will be used for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs for teachers and students and for community education outreach efforts.
The Northrop Grumman Science Center is the first major component of the Space Foundation's visitors center, which is under development at 4425 Arrowswest Drive in Colorado Springs, Colo. Construction will begin immediately and the new center is expected to open as early as this fall.
"This generous gift from Northrop Grumman makes it possible for the Space Foundation to realize our vision of an interactive destination for formal and informal public and private education - advancing STEM in the exciting context of space exploration, development and utilization," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "We envision a facility where children and adults can participate in highly interactive learning opportunities in multiple disciplines, including astronomy, physics, mathematics, geography, environmental sciences, planetary sciences and biology."
The Northrop Grumman Science Center will have both lecture and laboratory facilities that can be used for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level courses, educator professional development and educational multimedia events and presentations for the general public.
"Northrop Grumman is honored to partner with the Space Foundation to create this exciting new educational facility for the Rocky Mountain region that will help lead the next generation into space," said Gary Ervin, a corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman and president of the company's Aerospace Systems sector. "STEM education initiatives like this are critical for today's children to become tomorrow's leaders in space. They are the future stewards of our nation's leadership in technology to keep both our economy strong and our residents secure while advancing our understanding of the world around us."
The Center will extend the reach and capabilities of the Space Foundation's education enterprise, which offers space-themed, standards-based education programs to teachers and students. Programs include Space Across the Curriculum teacher professional development courses, STARS science enrichment programs for schools, New Horizons community programs that combine school-based education programs with community events and lectures, Audience with an Astronaut sessions for schools, school and youth tours of major space industry exhibits, including those at the National Space Symposium, lesson plans and teaching resources and a NASA Educator Resource Center.
Sending out congratulations to local author Barbara O'Neal on her nod from the Romance Writers of America for her 2011 novel, How to Bake a Perfect Life. It's been selected by RWA as a RITA finalist for novel with strong romantic elements.
You can find my January 2011 interview with O'Neal about the release of How to Bake a Perfect Life here; and, in tomorrow's Indy, you'll find a short review of her upcoming novel, The Garden of Happy Endings.
The RITA award winners will be announced July 28 at the RWA annual conference in California.
At the Prado in Spain, little cigarette-machine-like vendors dispensing thin books dot its numerous galleries. For a few Euros, little volumes in your language of choice pop out for an instant primer on the artist or period you’re touring. I fed my coins into the Velazquez vendor, largely to get a little souvenir image of his stunning portrait of the Infante Don Carlos (a life-changing painting, I promise).
The wee Velazquez book I still have, and it reminded me of the Denver Art Museum’s Companion to Spanish Colonial Art, a recently published guide to the DAM’s distinguished collection, housed on the north building’s fourth floor. Though more of a proper book — in line with its other recent publication, the fantastic Kress Collection catalogue by Angelica Daneo — this is a great beginner’s guide to all art Spanish Colonial.
... Which you can’t help but to love. On the one hand, it’s punchy, colorful and oh-so-dramatic. Yet those traits don’t relegate it to the telenovela of art history. Because there’s the other side, this artwork is the product of continental Spanish Conquest: Turquoise-green quetzal feathers mingling with the Baroque austerity of Spain, New World silver molded into Old World religions. Thousands of years of isolated histories clashing in a cultural supernova.
Art mirroring such a colossus is no easy feat to adequately explain, yet the author Donna Pierce does a great job for newbies. Aficionados will likely get less out of it, although I was pleased to find a great article at the end about Garden Party folding screens, products of cultural pollination from China and Japan. According to the book, the DAM possesses the only screen held in a museum in the U.S. There are about a dozen others known to exist, and they’re all in private collections. That means you can visit the real thing, just one hour from here.
Buy it here.
You want to know Storm Large. A Portland, Ore., rock legend, she’s tall, talented and inspiringly self-aware; in her brand-new memoir, Large describes her teenage years as a “turd in a punch bowl.” She was loud, obnoxious, slutty and druggy, and she’s the first to admit it.
I approached Crazy Enough as a book that would focus more on Large’s notorious stage presence and music career (I'd never heard of her, but she is most known for her appearance on Rock Star: Supernova), but this tome is about Large’s relationship with her mother, who spent most of her life struggling with mental and emotional problems. Clinically lonely and unhappy, Large’s mother drove her family away with years of hysterics, drug-addled hazes and hospital stays, convinced of one medical anomaly or another. Thus, Crazy Enough feels like it veers a bit once Large enters adulthood and escapes to the West Coast. While the first half of the book is rich with Large’s poignant memories and acerbic-yet-eloquent passages, the second half has a more wrap-up-y, overview approach.
Here, one of Large's expressive moments from an early chapter, when she recalls a mental institution where her mother stayed:
“I would hazard a guess that some of the people who were in charge back then are either behind bars or mopping up their own shit in a soggy cardboard box under a bridge somewhere in hell.
“… Sadville was a mental institution that looked exactly like you would expect a looney bin to look like had you only seen them depicted in horror films: a monolithic, gulag-type building with walls the color of yellowing chicken bone.”
You almost wish Large had held off for a while on writing this, to really pen all her memories. If her college days in Alphabet City and heroin era in San Francisco (where she calls herself “a loser among real addicts”) are any indicators, Large has plenty of stories to tell, and they deserve the full treatment. Maybe another memoir is in order.
And for more book reviews and coverage, click here.