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



Pantheon, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-42460-1.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 11/20/2012

Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Arts/Crafts

In Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, Camille Paglia points out that we need to teach focus by using the steady perception offered by a single object of art, as opposed to the sensory overload of constant mass media and electronic devices. She feels children especially are becoming addicted to fast-paced distractions that make reality seem boring. New art no longer revives public interest with new styles and innovation. From grade school through college, art education remains shallow, a victim of political crossfire on topics and budgets.

Everyone can enjoy Glittering Images because Paglia describes the history and styles in clear accessible language. She also explains the changes observers see in new media, as well as how the results differ from past popular art and photography techniques. By examining cultural influences and relevant historical events, Paglia puts the art in a familiar context and discusses interesting photos of Cyclades, idols, Greek caryatids, and more. She intentionally focuses on art that's not shown in her other books or in dozens of other books about art.

While there is more history and deeper discussion than the description of the book implies, the trip through the world of art remained interesting because Paglia's choice of works wasn't simply a recap of well-known pieces. The works include portraits, sculpture, stone idols, books, ink drawings, multimedia, earth sculpture, and performance art. Glittering Images covers a five-year project Paglia completed without research assistants, which may be why the stories behind the art are consistent and packed with details. You'll find yourself looking at everything, from photos to movies, with new thoughts about what you see.

The Book of Kells chapter fascinated me because I own a pair of earrings made in Ireland and they are decorated with a pattern copied from The Book of Kells, which I learned was saved from destruction, hidden in an abbey during the Viking raids. Chi-Ro, considered the most beautiful page in the entire book, is shown as an example of the beautiful and intricate Christian Celtic artistry. Formerly known as Saint Columba's Book, The Book of Kells is now on display in Trinity's Old Library, at Trinity College in Dublin.

Glittering Images won't keep you up at night turning pages. It's a reference or coffee table book; however, it contains something of interest for almost everyone, without requiring a degree in art history to enjoy the stories behind the art, and it's fun to explore the world of art without leaving home.


Camille Paglia, born in New York of parents who emigrated from Italy, is a recognized authority on art, as well as a controversial author on subjects such as politics, feminism, and popular culture. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and teaches at the University of Arts. When she put too much lime in the outhouse and it exploded, she said, "It symbolized everything I would do with my life and work. Excess and extravagance and explosiveness." Read more on the University website.

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