New photo-rich nonfiction includes 'Alaska Native Art'

Posted: Friday, November 09, 2007

Bring your muscles as well as your brains and carry home some of our new photo-rich nonfiction.

Sound off on the important issues at

"Vanishing Beauty," by Bertie and Dos Winkel. Lush color photos display the myriad ways humans find to adorn themselves in far-flung but rapidly modernizing regions of the world. From fairly permanent labrets and tattoos to colorful body paint and beaded hair ornaments, men and women alike seek to highlight and beautify body parts, advertise marital status, and show their wealth. This collection includes culture groups in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania.

"Boas and Pythons of the World," by Mark O'Shea. Look here for both the largest and the smallest snakes in the world. Covering not only the boas and pythons, but also the lesser known sub-families of blindsnakes, threadsnakes, and wormsnakes, this is a treasure trove for those not squeamish about these beautiful creatures. Iridescent Reticulated Pythons who sleep coiled on branches above deep water, the many varieties of blindsnake, many of which resemble earthworms more than snakes, and turtle-hunting anacondas are just a few of the many snakes you'll meet. Arranged geographically, with a nice introduction regarding snake classifications, myths, and conservation, this book will either give you the willies or make you smile in delight.

"The Art of Bone," by Jeff Smith. From his first exposure to Pogo in fourth grade, Smith knew he wanted to be a comic book artist and was elated when his comic book "Bone" took off with readers in the 1990s. Shown here for the first time are some of Smith's early works, including Fone Bone's first story, drawn when Smith was about 10. The character sketches, research photos, tributes to Pogo (Smith's inspiration) and acknowledgements of readers' influence will delight the many Bone fans out there. The concise frame-by-frame critiques, examinations of techniques and explanations of significant artistic decisions will make this a valuable book for aspiring comic book artists as well.

"The Unknown Monet," by James Ganz and Richard Kendall. Monet is known as a master of the paintbrush who usually painted without doing sketches beforehand, but here is proof of his facility as a draftsman and graphic artist. This collection of sketches, landscapes, studies and caricatures in all manner of media shows a whole new side to Monet, and the ample text gives biographical information and historical perspective. Fans of Monet and lovers of art will find this lovely book delightful to read cover-to-cover or to simply browse through and enjoy the ample illustrations and examples.

"Alaska Native Art," by Susan W. Fair. This exquisite book showcases the art and artists of twentieth century Alaska, from Yup'ik mukluks and Inupiaq carved walrus ivory jewelry to Tlingit wooden masks and Haida cedar baskets. Extensive essays explore the significance of geography, changing gender boundaries for artists, cultural and historical context and the integration of new materials into traditional techniques. Plenty of high-quality photos display the art pieces to their best advantage, and each photo is captioned in great detail. When possible, the artists are shown as well, either working or alongside their finished work, and brief interviews are included. All in all, an excellent and comprehensive look at a rich and varied body of work.

"Pinstripe Planet," by Herb Martinez. Usually relegated to hotrods, here, pinstriping artists show their steady hands on motorcycles, skateboards, helmets, bowling balls, jackets, and even a woman's back. After a chapter featuring pioneers of the field such as Von Dutch and Ed Roth, Martinez goes on to spotlight a number of up-and-coming big names from the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia, complete with copious photos. Not a how-to but a gallery of amazing and motivational ideas.

"Burning Man: Art in the Desert," by A. Leo Nash. For a decade, Nash has slept through the all-night parties at Burning Man's week-long arts festival in order to photograph the astounding and ephemeral installations in the desert's morning light. Here he's collected the best of the best and paired them with commentary to help readers orient themselves. The introduction, by Daniel Pinchbeck, explores the mindset needed to participate in Burning Man, and Nash's own foreword gives historical perspective and an appreciation for the persistence of purpose that drives this massive annual event.

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