Monday, May 31, 2010

The Eyes Have It: Applause for an "Artobiography"

I've heard it said that great art is generated out of conflict or tension. With that in mind, I'll introduce readers to one of my all-time favorite local author works, an "artobiography" by Boulder author and artist Tina Collen.

One of our Tattered Cover customers described it well as I showed her the book: "oh my, you can't read this on a (insert brand name of e-reader here)." If a person saw an online image of the book, it might not leap upon one's face screaming "read me" in neon blinking lights.

No, this book is a sensual experience, a pop-up for the grown-up aesthetic explorer, and from the moment one lifts it from the shelf it commands one's touch, sight, smell...a cohesive involvement of all humors.

"Storm of the i" is, in a sense, The Collen Museum of History. Precious artifacts from this woman's life are arranged and exhibited to delight and fascinate patrons. Collen herself is a thorough and patient curator, leading us all along the written hallways and corridors of her opus, gesturing quietly to the pieces which provide illustration yet leave us wondering. One feels certain of the presence of a master artist, as one witnesses page after page of highly professional, emotional writing coupled with the brilliant gems of a stellar graphic career.

By the end of my impeccably printed-and-bound museum visit, I have so many feelings. Did I just sit down with my friend and hear all her stories while cuddling up to her photo albums? Did I just walk out of a prestigious gallery, awed by the sights within? Did I just experience the loss of a loved one, painfully cataloguing all the joys and sufferings while cleaning out a house? Collen's book allowed me to experience each of these events simultaneously.

And what a magnificent work of art it is, which invites me to thrill in the depth of human experience and reflect upon my own humanity. Brava, Madame Collen.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"My Steamboat": Dori DeCamillis Hails from the Hills

Oh yes, I judge books by their covers. Because books, and book covers, are art to me, and I am attracted to good, vivid, striking art.

So I was hooked at first sight by Dori DeCamillis' memoir, "My Steamboat: A Ski Town Childhood." The luscious, fresh-air inducing bright photo of children playing in the river while the verdant ski slopes wink behind is so inviting...

And then the mud-covered, rough-and-tumble reality of Steamboat residency sets in. From the beginning DeCamillis warns that mountain folk are blunt sometimes, and that her stories, which are so every-day in her mind, may seem surprising or even scandalous to city slickers.

This city slicker wasn't scandalized, but did laugh uproariously at the girl joining her basketball team to moon highway drivers out the tour bus window, at the mother whose language could make light hearts blush, at the genuine sacrilege of naughty pranks during Mass in the town's Catholic parish.

This book has the feel of that friend in your life who tells the funniest stories and you could spend hours just listening, laughing, and wanting more. That's why I couldn't put it down until the last page had been devoured. Enjoy the mountain scenery, cherish this precious portrait of a once-quaint town that has, like so many resorts, been standardized to commercial perfection, smell the pine-scented breezes, and romp with Dori and the Duckels clan up and down Steamboat's mountain playground. Coloradans will feel right at home between these covers, and out-of-towners will rejoice in what we all know is our own slice of paradise.