"Nancy G. Heller is a godsend for the average Joe who wants to understand modern art. . . . Heller's funny, accessible book is filled with terrific color pictures for us to look at and get an idea about our individual aesthetic preferences. . . . There's no dour intellectual jargon and gobbleygook here, just plain talk for plain folks who dig art and want to know why."--Gino Vivinetto, St Petersburg Times
"Heller organizes a large body of material coherently. She clearly explains concepts that might otherwise seem novel or complex. She allows space for the critics of the avant-garde. . . . Taken as a whole, Heller's analysis is directed more to creating openness to avant-garde art than to an appreciation or understanding of it. She is not a proselytizer."--Gresham Riley, Philadelphia Inquirer
"In this evocatively titled book, Heller simplifies the complexities of modern avant-garde art, making it palatable and accessible to an uninformed audience. . . . [H]er argument will offer baffled museum and gallery visitors a way to appreciate otherwise difficult work."--Library Journal
"Heller wants to persuade the bewildered that the emperor of contemporary art does in fact have clothes--confusing and abstract clothes, but clothes nonetheless. She realizes that people dislike contemporary art because it makes them feel stupid, so she shies away from the conceptual in favor of formal aspects that everyone can appreciate . . . with jargon-free charm."--Alix Ohlin, The Wilson Quarterly
"Heller realizes that a painting is not like a pizza. She also knows, however, that this and the other homely analogies that pepper her introduction to modern art are entirely appropriate for an audience of curious and suspicious neophytes venturing into difficult terrain. . . . The emphasis on difficult and controversial works, which are compared to more traditional works, to each other, and to common things, introduces various ways of interpreting and evaluating art in the context of specific examples. . . . [S]hort, pithy, and intelligent."--Choice
From the Inside Flap
"Nearly a century after the Armory Show, avant-garde art remains misunderstood by mainstream America. In a practical, industrious country where the fine arts have never been deeply rooted, abstract and conceptual artists are still too often dismissed as silly, untalented, or immoral, with art galleries portrayed as snobbish and greedy. This worsening cultural crisis affects private and public funding, discourages promising new voices, and threatens America's creative future.
Nancy G. Heller's wonderful book arrives in the nick of time. Destined to be a classic of public education, it is lucid, engaging, and ingenious, leading the reader through the difficulties and strategies of avant-garde art. Intended for the general audience, the book is also must reading for teachers throughout the humanities, which have become distracted by jargon and ideology. Heller is an inspiring role model for university scholars, who must recover and renew their central mission of teaching."--Camille Paglia, University Professor and Professor of Humanities, University of the Art
"This delightful, down-to-earth guide demystifies the act of looking at modern and contemporary art with clarity and humor, drawing upon a diverse and wide-ranging array of artworks, which are abundantly reproduced. It will definitely appeal to novice viewers perplexed by the enigmas of earthworks and the splatters, scrapes, and splashes of non-traditional art, and it just may convince a few skeptics to look for beauty in unexpected places. Why a Painting is Like a Pizza is an ideal book for beginners because Nancy Heller leads us through the basics of analyzing the elements of any work of art while sharing tales of her own, often humorous, peregrinations to museums and galleries. She is an ideal companion---full of fun, facts, genuine enthusiasm, and a healthy respect for viewers abilities and their personal responses."--Bay Hallowell, Coordinator of Special Projects, Youth, and Family Programs, Philadelphia Museum of Art
"Nancy Heller has wrought a minor miracle. She has written a book about art that is of interest to both the layperson and the professional. Why a Painting Is Like a Pizza is informative and highly entertaining. By exploring the context within which art is made and exhibited, and by probing the criteria for evaluating it, Heller has constructed a useful framework for looking at art meaningfully. Without belittling artists and their work, she has demystified the artistic process. Through her pragmatic, everyday analogies she helps us see that all art is an act of communication and that the visitor's response--whatever it might be--is valid."--Susan S. Badder, Curator of Education, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
"Reading Why a Painting is Like a Pizza: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Modern Art is like having a personal guide at your side as you make your way through unfamiliar territory. We feel that we are in a gallery, engaged in an engrossing conversation with somebody who knows a great deal about modern art, but does not pretend to know all the answers, or even believe that answers are always available. While we hear Nancy Heller's highly intelligent and often very witty voice throughout the entire book, we also hear our own, for the author seems to know what we are thinking, wondering, and even resisting before we have been able to put our questions and doubts into words.
Nancy Heller presents the contemporary art world as it is, daring to bring up works that may raise eyebrows. She accepts our confusion and bewilderment as valid, and is always able to explain the challenges that some contemporary artists throw at us. She introduces important ideas in non-threatening, easily palatable ways, always defining new terms immediately, and never allowing us to fall into the abyss of art jargon. Background information is clear and to the point; illustrations are well described and always support the text.
While openly acknowledging that some contemporary art may seem outrageous, the author welcomes the opportunity to consider its message. In fact, she suggests that life would be far less interesting without art works that jar us from time to time. Showing equal respect for artist, museum, and viewer, she helps us understand all sides of the art world. As we reach the end of the book, we know we have been in the hands of a good guide who has helped us take real pleasure in looking at modern art and has given us courage to strike out on our own and make judgments for ourselves.
Why a Painting is Like a Pizza: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Modern Art will be a great help to teachers, museum guides, parents, and art-interested people of all stripes who are looking for ways to explain modern art to themselves, family, students, and friends."--Linda Andre, Program Specialist for Teacher Services, The Sylvia Friedberg Nachlas Endowed Chair in Museum Education, Department of Education & Interpretation, The Baltimore Museum of Art
"So much writing on modern art is dessicated intellectualism, jargon laden, and marinated in theory. Here, instead, we have a simple and clear presentation, truly accessible to students, general readers, and museum beginners."--A. Richard Turner, author of Inventing Leonardo--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.