“Modern life is a sea of images,” intellectual provocateur Camille Paglia points out in her introduction to Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, new in paperback this month from Vintage.
This flood of images, Paglia says, creates some new challenges. “The brain, overstimulated, must rapidly adapt to process this swirling barrage of disconnected data.” Mass media and “slavishly monitored personal electronic devices” have “liberated individual voices but paradoxically threatened to overwhelm individuality itself.”
Those, in a way, are some of the questions Paglia addresses. Her answer? “We must relearn to see.” At the same time, she maintains, attention to fine art has waned while sports, animated movies and video games command an ever larger chunk of viewer’s attentions. And she sounds an alarm that resonates through its truth: “The arts are fighting a rearguard action, their very survival at stake.”
Although it’s the beginning, this might not be the best place to start telling you about Glittering Images. Though it sounds like it from the introduction, Glittering Images isn’t a philosophical discussion about art. Or rather, it isn’t just that. It’s also a wonderful, thoughtful contemplation on art as well as a guide through specific styles and movements. The result is… well, pure Paglia. The book is one part introduction to western art, one part art history and one part pure commentary.
Glittering Images wraps Paglia’s passionate, energetic prose around well-reproduced illustrations. The book is thoughtful and, at times, even provocative. Anyone who has wanted to know more about western art or wondered where it’s heading will find Glittering Images rewarding and even eye-opening. It’s a terrific book. ◊
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.