Things That Art
A graphic menagerie of enchanting curiosity
University of Toronto Press
Sep 17, 2019, 114 pages
Art & philosophy, languages
Provided by NetGalley
The cover initially drew me to the book with its macabre and whimsical artwork. This is the artwork the author uses throughout the book. The colors and the subjects don’t seem to go together, but somehow, Jain makes it all work. The six things shown hanging on the cover are all art because they are all drawings of things and are hung for your observation. Thus, art. That’s the relationship for this group of items. Can you think of another relationship these items all share? Well, they are all drawn by Lochlann Jain. But they are unexpected. I certainly didn’t expect them. Nor did I expect what else I found between the covers of this book.
First, let me take care of the unpleasant parts. I read and understood the author’s introduction and was really looking forward to the rest of the book. I started looking through the collections. Checking out the relationships and understanding the message the author/artist was sending with each one. And while I’m talking about them at this point, I must say that this is not a children’s book. This has mature subject matter in it, both individual images and collections. Once through the first section of collections, I came to the first essay by another writer. Now, I have a BFA and read constantly, but I really felt like I needed a Ph.D. in English to understand what was in that essay, or maybe a translator. When I reached the point that I felt like I had to use the dictionary for seven words out of ten, I started skimming the essays. This is such a shame because I’m sure they had some interesting things to say. One of the essays had an explanation of a term that was used and I couldn’t even understand the explanation! It just was too much. Too high brow for my taste.
I went on to enjoy the artwork in the collections and skim the essays. The art was really awesome for the most part. Having an art background, I’m always drawn to books like this with lots of artwork in it. This one didn’t disappoint in that aspect. This isn’t realistic art, but cartoon-style art. But the really fascinating part of it is the way the artist has grouped the pictures to change relationships to make us see things differently. To make us think about things differently. To make us think. And I’m pretty sure that’s what those essayists were saying with all their fancy vocabulary.
I can’t say that I’d recommend buying this book for my own library. I would spend some time with it in a public or school library, though. It would be a great book to discuss in a group or a class. I’d just skip the essays and work with the intro and the art.