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7 Book / Artwork Pairings to Add to Your List

Need a good book recommendation? Perhaps you’d like a book that also deepens your art exploration? Interpretation Specialist Brittany Johnson and Curatorial Assistant Larissa Randall have paired seven book recommendations with artworks from the Crystal Bridges collection that provide a deeper exploration of an artwork or artist. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in with these book / artwork pairings!

 

1. How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living by Karen Karbo

Pair it with: Evening Star No. II by Georgia O’Keeffe

Left: Karen Karbo, “How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living,” 2013, published by Skirt!. Right: Georgia O’Keeffe, Evening Star No. II, 1917, 8 3/4 x 12 in. (22.2 x 30.5 cm), watercolor on paper, promised gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Unlike traditional biographies, How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living is a contemporary reassessment of the artist’s life. While living in Canyon, Texas, O’Keeffe painted Evening Star No. II, one of a series of eight. Although only there a short time, the landscape of West Texas inspired her work and impacted the development of her style, one of the key themes of this book.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

2. Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists by Sharon Louden

Pair it with: Tempest by Brian Tolle

Left: Sharon Louden, “Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists,” 2013, published by Intellect Ltd. Right: Brian Tolle, Tempest, 2010, 5 × 33 × 29 ft, powder-coated aluminum, fiberglass, and LED lights, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Gift of Ruth and William S. Ehrlich.

The 40 essays collected in Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, including one written by collection artist Brian Tolle, are written in the artists’ own voices. Although each different and unique, all 40 express an ongoing commitment to creativity, inside and outside a studio setting.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

3. Feelings Are Facts: A Life (Writing Art) by Yvonne Rainer

Pair it with: The Bubble by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth 

Left: Yvonne Rainer, “Feelings are Facts: A Life,” 2006, published by MIT Press. Right: Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, The Bubble, 1928, 94 x 38 3/4 x 26 in., bronze and glass, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, fractional Gift of Frank L. Hohmann, III and museum purchase.

Much like Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s sculpture, The Bubble, presents a young female dancer, so too does Feelings are Facts. Using diary entries, letters, program notes, and more dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer’s memoir, paints a vivid portrait of an extraordinary artist.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

4. Just Kids by Patti Smith

Pair it with: Cupid and Psyche by Benjamin West

Left: Patti Smith, “Just Kids,” 2010, published by HarperCollins. Right: Benjamin West, Cupid and Psyche, 1808, 54 1/4 x 56 1/4 in. (137.8 x 142.9 cm), oil on canvas, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir, captures her life and relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Described as “roommates, soul mates, friends, lovers, and muses,” Smith and Mapplethorpe’s relationship was not without its share of obstacles, much like that of Cupid and Psyche. In classical mythology, Cupid and Psyche overcome a myriad of challenges, including jealousy, familial obligations, an actual trip to the underworld, and more for their love.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

5. Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel

Pair it with: Rough, Ain’t It by Grace Hartigan

Left: Mary Gabriel, “Ninth Street Women : Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art,” 2019, published by Little, Brown and Company. Right: Grace Hartigan, “Rough, Ain’t It,” 1949, 40 x 54 in. (101.6 x 137.2 cm), oil and mixed media on canvas, promised gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Ninth Street Women chronicles five women, including collection artist Grace Hartigan, who dared to enter the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting—not as muses but as artists.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

6. Guestbook: Ghost Stories by Leanne Shapton

Pair it with: No. 210/No. 211 (Orange) by Mark Rothko

Left: Leanne Shapton, “Guestbook: Ghost Stories,” 2019, published by Penguin Publishing Group. Right: Mark Rothko, No. 210/No. 211 (Orange), 1960, 69 x 63 in. (175.3 x 160 cm), oil on canvas, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Mark Rothko’s floating rectangular fields of color suggest an abstract world related to, but beyond, our everyday experience; seeking to address those mysteries of life that have attracted artists for generations. Artists like Leanne Shapton, whose Guestbook: Ghost Stories uses photographs, paintings, and text, evidence that marks her path through life, to address those mysteries head-on.

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

7. Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph by Deana Lawson (Photographs), Steven Nelson (Text), Arthur Jafa (Interviews)

Pair it with: The Kitchen Table series by Carrie Mae Weems

Left: Deana Lawson (Photographs), Steven Nelson (Text), Arthur Jafa (Interviews), “Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph,” 2017, published by Aperture. Right: Carrie Mae Weems, “Untitled (Woman and daughter with children),” from the series “The Kitchen Table,” 1990, printed 2015, 28 1/4 × 28 1/4 in. (71.8 × 71.8 cm), gelatin silver print, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Using medium- and large-format cameras, photographer Deana Lawson works with models she meets in the United States and on travels in the Caribbean and Africa to construct arresting, highly structured, and deliberately theatrical scenes animated by an exquisite range of color and attention to detail.

Casting herself as the Everywoman at the center of this narrative, artist Carrie Mae Weems seeks to connect her experience as a modern black woman in America with the viewer. Though African Americans typically serve as her primary subjects, in displaying everyday scenes at a family table, Weems wants these figures “to stand for the human multitudes.”

Get the book here.

Learn more about the artwork here.

 

Happy reading!

 

Written by Brittany Johnson, interpretation specialist, and Larissa Randall, curatorial assistant, Crystal Bridges.

 

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