This book does what few art books do. It locates the elevated and often esoteric world of art in the personal depths of the author’s life. Acclaimed poet and novelist William Benton lets us see what he sees with both candor and brilliance. As the critic Lilly Wei observed, “He tells us something about the paradoxes of love at the same time that he tells us about . . . art.” From Elizabeth Bishop, whose paintings he first brought to light, to Vermeer (real and fake), from El Greco to Joan Brown to an autobiographical concordance of the drawings of Georges Seurat, Eye Contact is in every sense a dazzling encounter.
About the Author:
William Benton grew up in a small town on Galveston Bay. He received his early training in music and worked as a jazz piano player before becoming a writer. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and other magazines. He is the author of a number of books, including Exchanging Hats: Elizabeth Bishop Paintings, The Mary Julia Paintings of Joan Brown, and Madly, a novel. His most recent book is Backlit, a collection of poems. He lives in New York City.
For scrupulously observed art appreciation Eye Contact is an eye-opener, and the book is unique by what it brings to bear. The artwork addressed, some by lesser known artists, ranges from neo-realistic to ultra-abstract, in a formal diversity of presentation that runs from poems to researched articles, but its sum foregoes smothering us in otherness. The author’s credentials - published novelist, sometime gallerist and dealer, dean of an art school - come into play too, even to appraising market value and faux branding. But William Benton is primarily a poet, and the book gradually gains its unique success from the real experience of his lifetime, the coups and crises of marriage and family, its ring of truth resounding from a persisting and expansive source of human authenticity.