Thursday, April 21, 2011

Off-beat books to inspire your summer travel

Travel season is upon us! I'm featuring some hidden gems; some off-beat travel books to inspire your artistic experience of interesting places. The library has only one or two copies of each of these so you'll probably have to request them.

Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place by Barbara Buhler Lynes

This catalog for a 2004 travelling exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work features the genius’ landscape paintings and beside them, photographs of the sites she painted.  You’ll quickly notice that the macro textures of landforms carved by eons of erosion was O’Keeffe’s primary interest and that the micro-texture of soil and vegetation was not important to her at all. I thought it was a great way to get inside O'Keeffe's head. It combines paintings, photographs, and geological charts as well that describe the landscape in parallel scientific, visual, and evocative languages.  A great book if you’re an artist traveling with a geologist!

The book also contains tidbits of her life story that illuminate the person she was and her long love affair with the New Mexico landscape.

Metro Stop Paris: An Underground History of the City of Light by Gregor Dallas

Gregor Dallas, a historian, writes about key moments and characters in the human history of Paris through, of all things, its subway stops.  I hope it stirs your imagination as it did mine as you read about famous philosophers and poets, kings and citizens, life and death, and link them to the arrondissements of Paris.

At the first metro stop,  Denfert-Rochereau, in the part of Paris once called Hell, there are catacombs, and from 1830, the guillotine. The Trocadero metro stop elicits memories of French Cuban author Anaïs Nin and her Viennese psycho-analyst lover Dr. Otto Rank. The Gare du Nord neighborhood is where St. Vincent de Paul’s charitable relief happened. Saint-Germain-des- Près brings you to the heart of Paris’ intellectual soul on the Left Bank. And the last stop, Pere Lachaise, takes you to the famous cemetery where renowned cultural figures are buried, including artists David, Ingres, Delacroix, Corot, Caillebotte, and Ernst.

Leonardo’s Universe: The Renaissance World of Leonardo da Vinci by Bulent Atalay and Keith Wamsley

Whether or not you’re planning a visit to Italy or just trying to understand mathematical principals in art, this book is a treat. If I tell you it was published by National Geographic you’ll know that the photographs and diagrams are excellent. The geography of Leonardo’s life and work and the story are wonderful, too.

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