Art, Minus the Gimmicks

Writer Camille Paglia tackles the spirituality — and mission — of art

November 1, 2012

Feminist author Camille Paglia has her say about art this time.

Self-described “dissident feminist” writer and professor Camille Paglia has made a career of questioning (usually with pointed, arch humor) pretty much everything in culture both pop and high: Yeats’ turns of phrase, Alfred Hitchcock’s subtexts, Madonna’s bustiers. On Thursday, the Salon columnist will be at Politics and Prose to read from her eighth book, “Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.”

This is your first book to focus entirely on visual art. Did that change your approach to writing and research?
I surveyed and synthesized an enormous body of research material for each chapter, which ends with my  own personal interpretation of each artwork. The overall theme of the book is the spirituality of art and the artistic mission — concepts which have been deplorably absent from the art world during the last 30 years of  gimmicky, high-concept postmodernism.

Why did you include Titian’s “Venus with a Mirror,” which is on display at the National Gallery of Art?
I included Titian as a representative of the lush new medium of oil painting in the Renaissance. He is also there as a symbol of the alluring pleasure principle in Venetian art, where women were represented as lush fruits, their plump bodies as organic as earth itself.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of your book is the inclusion of George Lucas as one of the greatest artists of our time.
While writing the book, I kept seeing the “Star Wars” series on cable TV, and I fell totally under the spell of the long finale of “Revenge of the Sith.” I think that finale is the most powerful work of art produced in any genre in the last 30 years. It’s time for people to wake up and acknowledge the staggering global impact and achievement of George Lucas.

Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Thu., 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)
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