Sarah Urist Green recommends 6 books that influenced her life
Museum curator Sarah Urist Green is the host of The Art Assignment, a weekly online series produced by PBS Digital Studios. Her new book, You Are an Artist, offers more than 50 prompts for readers to tap their creative potential.
Hold Still by Sally Mann (2015).
This is not just the memoir of a photographer but also an important, lasting chronicle of how art and life are messily, exquisitely intertwined. Mann's story, accompanied by her stunning photography, has given me a model for how to be an artist, wife, mother, daughter, friend, and thoughtful member of humanity, all at the same time.
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton (2012).
You might not think you want to read a story about an artist-illustrator's past life as a competitive swimmer and her continuing love for swimming, swimming pools, and swimsuits. But you do, you really do. Shapton's acute sense memory and sharp prose, coupled with her illustrations and photos, are a pleasure from start to finish.
Learning by Heart by Corita Kent and Jan Steward (1992).
Sister Corita Kent was a beloved and revolutionary art teacher in 1960s Los Angeles and a gifted printmaker. She was also a firm believer in learning by doing, and this is an indispensable guide to her teaching philosophy, full of novel ways of paying attention to the world around you.
Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979).
I've never been a fan of science fiction, but this novel rocked my world. It immerses you in the startling reality of a young writer who finds herself time traveling between 1976 Los Angeles and life among her ancestors on an antebellum Maryland plantation. Utterly transfixing, deeply disturbing, and masterfully drawn.
A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine (2008).
A friend gave me this book, which I never would have read otherwise. It has provided me with an essential framework for wanting what I already have, and for processing my fears about death, loss, and rampant consumerism. It is a road map for living a more tranquil, appreciative life, all modeled on the philosophy of the Stoics.
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010).
Everyone loves Patti Smith's memoir, for good reason, and the 2018 illustrated edition is even better than the original. The singer and poet is an international treasure, able to communicate deeply even on Instagram, and her account of her young life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is clearly and beautifully told.
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