My Father’s House: On Will Barnet’s Paintings

Thomas Dumm. Duke Univ, $24.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8223-5546-5
This meditative book by Dumm (Loneliness as a Way of Life), a professor of political ethics at Amherst College, is not so much art criticism or art history as “a written narrative accompanying a visual biography of a family.” Inspired by a series of Barnet’s paintings “about absence, loss, [and] a family bereft of itself” as well as conversations with the artist, Dumm examines and interprets Barnet’s work, as well as using the paintings to explore loneliness, the relationship between past and future, and the ideas and lives of such writers and thinkers as Emerson, Dickinson, Benjamin, and Thoreau. The relatively stark paintings show members of Barnet’s family, particularly his older and ailing sister, Eva, in their father’s house. Dumm claims that the gothic “reminds us that our homes are haunts,” and Barnet is not afraid to confront the ghosts within; his work explores “the theme of memory and its repression” as his portraits capture “the idea of a person in its most intense and essential aspect.” In captivating fashion, readers are invited into this uncanny space of nostalgia and loss. 10 color illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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