Still Life … or is it?

Finally continuing my quest to share the books I’ve read in the past three (or so) years, I find that the next one on my list is by Mark Doty. Prior to reading this book, I hadn’t considered the difference in the emotional reaction evoked by a book in relation (or as opposed) to that evoked by a painting. In overly simplistic terms, with books, the intellect precedes and often guides emotional reaction, whereas with paintings, the emotional reaction often precedes intellectual interpretation. This book by Mark Doty is as close to the cerebral representation of a painting as I have the ability to imagine. It is, by far, the most beautiful work I’ve ever encountered.

Doty, Mark. Still Life With Oysters and Lemon On Objects and Intimacy. New York: Beacon P, 2002. This is a lyrical exploration of the ways in which art not only reflects but also transcends life, giving it a higher, eternal meaning. Through analyzing a seventeenth century Dutch still life painting, Mark Doty examines the delicate balance of the human condition. With the painting as the emotional catalyst, Doty brings his world to life through sensory details and poignant memories that illustrate the mysterious inevitabilities that touch all human hearts.


2 Responses to “Still Life … or is it?”

  1. dave says:

    Thanks for this recommendation. I’ve been reflecting on art and experience; Doty’s book is indeed a catalyst for awareness, much as good painting strives consciously or unconsciously, to be. The rusted white boat, radiant in the raking light of a setting sun-was it all a set up for that moment? Had Doty been primed by his love of painting to receive that connection to beauty in the world? Or had Doty’s lifetime of poetic vision primed him for the expanse of the Dutch still life? Wonderful stuff, Tara. I’m not a writer, nor a poet by any stretch; I will have to try some of Doty’s poetry and see what it helps me see.

    • tmcaimi says:

      That’s a good idea Dave – I haven’t read any of Doty’s poetry (well, his prose is what I’d call poetic, but you know what I mean). Let me know what you think. These are all great questions. Are some people born “artists” as in, innately wired to receive that “connection to beauty in the world?” Can it be learned? Does it transfer across art forms? It’s the books and other works of art that inspire such questions I find most fascinating these days.

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