Lisa Yuskavage: TOP TEN BOOKS


Courtesy of Jason Schmidt

The artist Lisa Yuskavage is best known for her figurative paintings depicting coarsely displayed bodies (in flagrantly revealing poses) in a technically classical manner, the result of which are beautifully painted — yet convoluted — canvases. Her work has afforded her honors including the Tiffany Foundation Grant, the Temple University Gallery of Success Award, and the Founder’s Day Certificate of Honor.

Below are Lisa Yuskavage’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


The Palm at the End of the Mind

Wallace Stevens
I bought this in 1985 and have read it constantly since. It is always near me. Wallace’s poems often reflect on the act of creating, and he evokes exquisite mental images that are thrilling. One of my favorite poems is “The Snow Man.” “For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”
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A Bend in the River

V.S. Naipaul
I first read this book ten years ago and was so taken with the fluidity of the prose that I read it a second time, and then a third. And then to my surprise, I listened to it several times as an audio book. I could not and did not want to escape that place at the bend in the river. It is a total experience of a place and a time, and a thrilling read.
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Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy
I genuinely grieved for Anna for days after I finished reading it. That’s what reading Tolstoy is like…the best and purest realism. I also love that a man wrote a story that so perfectly portrays the misogyny that this woman was subjected to: punished for loving another man, torn apart from her son, isolated and addicted to drugs and suffering postpartum depression. Super sad and beautiful.
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The Odyssey

This was on my high school reading list. I loved every bit of it. I have always wanted to read it again. If I am on a desert island, I will have plenty of time.
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The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color

Johannes Itten
I went to Yale School of Art, and should be into the Joseph Alber’s “The Interaction of Color,” but I prefer his teacher at the Bauhaus, Johannes Itten. I bought “The Art of Color” when I was a 19-year-old painting student and was totally connected to color by reading it. Even today, all kinds of lights go on in my imagination looking at the graphs and charts.

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Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting

Marcia Hall
This is almost a how-to book on looking at and thinking about color methods, as it was employed in the Renaissance. She uncovered information for me that I had always suspected existed. There were four basic modes of coloring: Sfumato, Chiaroscuro (both are more commonly discussed), but the other two, Unione and Cangiantisimo, were not known to me until picking this us. I have a copy with me every time I paint.

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Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations

Philip Guston, edited by Clark Coolidge and Dore Ashton
At Tyler School of Art, I had the great fortune to study with the painter, Stephen Greene. Stephen was a student of Philip Guston’s and showed me a glimpse into the mind of Guston in our many conversations. I can pick this collection up and put my finger in any spot and find a nugget of genius that is totally inspiring.
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The Complete Stories

Franz Kafka
My favorite is “A Country Doctor”. The Id and the Super Ego running amok in a snowstorm. Dilapidated barnyard doors… and other openings into Kafka’s imaginary world, and of the deepest and most conflicted parts of the human mind.
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The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
My father in law, Victor Levenstein, just finished writing his own memoirs about his early life and surviving torture and forced labor in the Gulags. He met Solzhenitsyn while in exile and was in the same camp that is described in “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”. I found this book to be deeply profound in observing humans at their absolute worst while never missing the big story of human nature.
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Don’t Shoot the Dog

Karen Pryor
This book gave me insight into how one can develop an evolved mind and can create change in the behavior of not just an animal but that of a bad neighbor or a surly bus driver. I bought it 16 years ago when I got my first dog, Lola, who recently passed away having not learned a darn thing, but I worshipped this book because of the way in which the author maps out the principles of positive reinforcement training as opposed to punishment.
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