Book Review | Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars by Camille Paglia

Over the years, I’ve run into Camille Paglia’s essays at unexpected times, and I seem to always come away thoughtful and, occasionally, amused. Clearly coming from a perspective distant from my own, politically and culturally a member of East Coast academia, I never the less found her insights and way of putting things provocative.

When I heard that her newest book argued that George Lucas was one of greatest, if not the greatest, of modern artists, I was intrigued.

First off, because I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was a child making light sabers out of wrapping paper tubes.

And second, because I’ve occasionally, like many other fans, wondered if Lucas had lost his way with the Prequels.

How does an art critic find Lucas, who has turned Star Wars into one of the most profitable franchises in history, to be an artist? Of course, I was intrigued.

Paglia’s Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars is a survey of art through history, with each entry a selection of an era. Paglia describes the piece of art, starting in the bronze era and passing through ancient Greece, the middle ages, the Renaissance, and so on.

Each entry is two to three pages long and provides background and narrative, analysis and context for the work. The writing is fluid, colorful, and, like I had found in Paglia before, intriguing.

I’m not an art critic, let alone an art historian. At best, I can appreciate a few pieces of well-known art. What I found in Paglia was an informative survey of art through the ages. In the introduction Paglia argues that what we are losing in our quest to get to the top of the education ladder is an appreciation of what art has brought us to where we are.

It’s fascinating reading, even if there are a few pieces of art from the modern era looked–to me–more like spatters of paint than art. I recommend it, whether you are an experienced art critic or a novice, as I am.

And Lucas? I’ll let you discover on your own why Paglia thinks he is today’s greatest living artist.

Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars Book Cover Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars
Camille Paglia
art history
October 16, 2012

From the best-selling author of Sexual Personae and Break, Blow, Burn and one of our most acclaimed cultural critics, here is an enthralling journey through Western art’s defining moments, from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’s volcano planet duel in Revenge of the Sith.

America’s premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that brought her fame, the great themes of Western art. Passionately argued, brilliantly written, and filled with Paglia’s trademark audacity, Glittering Images takes us on a tour through more than two dozen seminal images, some famous and some obscure or unknown—paintings, sculptures, architectural styles, performance pieces, and digital art that have defined and transformed our visual world. She combines close analysis with background information that situates each artist and image within its historical context—from the stone idols of the Cyclades to an elegant French rococo interior to Jackson Pollock’s abstract Green Silver to Renée Cox’s daring performance pieceChillin’ with Liberty. And in a stunning conclusion, she declares that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that digital pioneer George Lucas is the world’s greatest living artist. Written with energy, erudition, and wit, Glittering Images is destined to change the way we think about our high-tech visual environment.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.