Talking Beauty: A Conversation Between Joseph Raffael and David Pagel About Art, Love, Death, and Creativity (Hardcover)
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Talking Beauty: A Conversation Between Joseph Raffael and David Pagel about Art, Love, Death, and Creativity is unique among publications about art for several reasons.
It is a conversation. Not an interview. Not a critical assessment of an artist's oeuvre. Not a historical overview. Not a promotional celebration of an artist's work. But an honest, wide-ranging, free-wheeling back-and-forth between two fairly idiosyncratic individuals: an expatriate painter in his 80s who has lived in the South of France for 30 years, and an art critic and professor in his 50s who has lived in Southern California for 30 years, where he writes, in plain English, art criticism for the Los Angeles Times and teaches at Claremont Graduate University.
To the conversation Raffael brings his lifelong devotion to the art of painting, which has nothing to do with art-world trends or marketability and everything to do with his conviction that art is an avenue of self-discovery, that beauty and truth matter, and that the most powerful art is born of suffering, is redemptive, is deeply mysterious, and transforms the selves who experience it in entirely unanticipated ways.
Such ideas play a negligible role in the way students of art are taught today at academic institutions, where art is assumed to be an analytical enterprise, a highly conceptual endeavor meant to deliver social commentary and criticism. Raffael describes Talking Beauty as the book he would have liked to have read when he was just starting out as an artist. It is about big, existential issues, addressed and engaged, in non-academic language, as they arise from a down-to-earth discussion about what really matters to two guys who believe that the critical dialogue that has grown up around art misses much of what people want and need from it. That spiritual dimension comes into the conversation naturally and matter-of-factly, by way of the experiences that have shaped both Raffael and Pagel's lives as fathers and husbands.
To the conversation Pagel brings his belief that art is always a matter of one-on-one, face-to-face experiences, and that its directness and immediacy are available to ordinary folks, to non-specialists, to people who are neither experts nor insiders but still attentive to art's often overlooked powers. His plain, matter-of-fact language complements Raffael's romantic outlook.
In Talking Beauty, the two voices combine to create a moving meditation on art's core purposes: to reveal who we are as individuals and to reflect on what that might mean for all of us.