Jana's Reviews > A Field Guide to Getting Lost

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
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really liked it
bookshelves: art, psychogeography, memoir

This little book lived for months half-read and near neglected in my bedside table until I polished it off a couple of weeks ago. It's not that I wasn't enjoying it or finding it meaningful, but only that life was getting too busy for pleasure reading. That being said, the impetus for reading it in the first place was to feed ideas in my studio practice, which it did, and not so much for pure pleasure (though the two aren't mutually exclusive).

My ideas were particularly fed on the four chapters of the same title: The Blue of Distance. In each of these, Solnit wove together personal memory with art historical references and theoretical musings. I became so taken with the notion of blue and with horizons and distance and atmospheric perspective and getting lost (or meandering within the terra incognita) and how those things related to some of my work of a few years ago and more recent unfinished projects, that I picked up some half-completed blue paintings / videos and started making plans for an "Instances of Blue" show in which I would explore my own terra incognita.

From pages 32-33: "In Hans Memling's triptych of the Resurrection circa 1490, the toes and robe hem of a levitating figure ascending out of the frame, daringly cropped like a figure in a photograph, though there are no photographs of miracles. Below, a group of brown-haired figures looks upward, their hands raised in prayer and astonishment. Just above their heads is the near shore of a lake. The lake is blue and beyond it are blue hills as though there were three realms, the heaven whose sunset colors the floating figure is entering, the many-colored earth below, and the faraway blue realm that is neither, not part of this Christian duality. The effect is even more pronounced in Joachim Patenier's famous painting of Saint Jerome in the wilderness, made about thirty years later. Jerome crouches in a ragged-roofed hovel before a pile of deep gray rocks, and behind him much of the world is blue, blue river, blue rocks, blue hills, as though he were in exile not from civilization, but from this particular celestial shade....

The painters seemed to have become smitten with the blue of distance, and when you look at these paintings you can imagine a world where you could walk through an expanse of green grass, brown tree trunks, of whitewashed houses, and then at some point arrive in the blue country: grass, trees, houses become blue, and perhaps if you look down at yourself, you too would be blue as the Hindu god Krishna."
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Reading Progress

August 8, 2010 – Shelved
August 8, 2010 – Shelved as: art
August 8, 2010 – Shelved as: psychogeography
August 8, 2010 – Shelved as: memoir
Started Reading
April 3, 2011 – Finished Reading

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