Book Review

Guardians of the Soul: Angels and innocents, mourners and saints - Indiana's remarkable cemetery sculpture

by John Bower

Foreword by Claude Cookman

Studio Indiana; $22

John Bower's photographs pose more questions than provide answers about the people whose graves are marked by works in stone, bronze, zinc and fiberglass. His spare text gives some clues to statuary standing as "the human struggle against oblivion" in 48 counties south of U.S. 40. As Indiana's outdoor museum of public art, these places of burial represent a concept of gardens for the dead that is currently in decline. Modern cemeteries reflect modern culture - sameness in flat markers spaced for ease in mowing. Bower's eye and lens bring us predictable motifs and one-of-a-kind examples of artisans whose names are absent, yet their craft stands across centuries despite vandalism and weathering. Angles in abundance are symbolic guides and protectors. Children - true likenesses or stock poses - elicit sadness. Animals are lasting companions to those in repose beneath their feet. Adults depict their roles - women in remorse, clinging to crosses, draped in veils; men in command, whether in military stance or steely-eyed, tight-lipped as busts on pedestals. Robert and Anna Anderson stand together at Walnut Hill in Gibson County, and therein lies a cautionary tale of the profligate widow.

Religious figures bespeak what? Who chose the crucified Christ or the sloe-eyed Madonna - the deceased before death or the grieving living? Showing honor to Indiana's limestone stone cutters is a surprise element in Lawrence County's Green Hill Cemetery. Read the story of the ill-fated master carver Johnny Caspar on page 139. Did his story inspire Arsenic and Old Lace?

Edward Weston: Life Work

Essays by Sarah M. Lowe and Dody Weston Thompson

Lodima Press; $150

This 110-photograph survey of one of America's most renowned photographers is equally an example of bookmaking and photographic art. With fidelity to his originals, spanning a career across the first half of the 20th century, these astounding images are reproduced actual size on two different paper stocks.

Weston started as a studio photographer working in a soft-focused Pictorialist mode. He became "the quintessential sharp-focus Modernist" whose 1936 two-year westward journey began for him a "voyage of discovery, ready to receive fresh impressions, eager for fresh horizons, not in the spirit of a militant conqueror to impose myself or my ideas, but to identify myself in, and unify with, whatever I am able to recognize as significantly part of me: the 'me' of universal rhythms."

What Weston found intriguing is awesome, and what Ansel Adams described as "freshness, simplicity and natural strength" of photographs of roots, dunes, stones, fruits; nudes, architecture, landscapes, sky.

Art critic Pauline Schindler puts it poetically: "When I am confused by the chaos into which the human animal has gotten itself, I think of your cabbage sprout, the thrust and urge of it, and I feel sure again that there is a forceful order in the universe. I am grateful."

You can find Weston's photographs on exhibit through Oct. 9 at the Eiteljorg Museum as The Sensuous West.


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