29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A seamless merging of painting and poetry,
This review is from: Still Life With Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Hardcover)
Mark Doty has done the impossible. In STILL LIFE WITH OYSTERS AND LEMON he has not only written an extended essay (read epic poem) about his encounter with a simple Dutch Still Life painting, but he has also produced what must become the definitive map for looking, seeing, studying and describing the essence of art in a way that encourages us all to return to the pursuit of beauty. Doty has proved his credentials in art hisory and art technique so that he is able to find the essence of a still life, rhapsodize on the quality of light as captured by an everyday object that makes a centuries old painting seem immediate to our own home, and in doing so reveals his own history of memories, lovers, favorite objects, the passage of time as participants in the transitory moment we call life. So many art critics and art historians have attempted to find this plane of understanding and enlightment with only minimal degrees of success. As a curator and essayist about art I am humbled and in awe. Mark Doty is one of the finest poets in America today and knows his way with words, with phrases that illuminate his stances, with defining emotions inaudible to most of us. But this small book is more than an homage to a particular still life painting (though on that merit alone he wins the competition!). This is a tender, thoughtful journey toward discovering beauty that daily surrounds us, a call to accept the transitory nature in all things and to experience them while we may. No fatalism here, just a door opened to appreciate the cycle of being alive...which just happens to warmly include the aspect of dying as part of that totality. As in Still Life painting: artists have selflessly recreated moments precious to them, frozen them in time to stave off the finite, and in doing so have left us with miraculous images to incorporate into our psyches for perpetuating beauty. This book is a must for art students, for art lovers, and for everyone who yearns to understand the journey of the soul. As Doty informs us, paraphrasing poetry or a painting as focused as a still life is impossible; by nature the essence has been distilled. Writing a review of such a book is near impossible. Gift yourself with a book to which you will return as often as the author has returned to Still Life with Oysers and Lemon!