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Drawing, Politics and Graphic Propaganda

John O’Connor Author Interview

White Lies Matter explores the deceptions and cynicism of America while exploring the “alt- facts” that permeate contemporary society. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Years ago, noted art critic Robert Hughes lamented the fact that America had never had a Goya. That notion apparently remained in my subconscious because by 2013, I realized that my art was focused more and more on revealing the lies and misconceptions that were abundant in American history.

In addition to that motivation, my education includes minors in mathematics, foreign language and art history. And, my professional background goes well beyond teaching classes in art and art history. I have also taught in the University of Florida College of Engineering, created and taught in the Master of Business Administration degree program in UF’s College of Business Administration, and taught Art Law at UF for fifteen years along with Distinguished Service Professor of Law, E. L. Roy Hunt. And, for more than ten years, I worked with Professor of Medicine, Dr. James Cerda studying and writing about the health hazards affecting actors, artists, dancers, and musicians. I was also made quite aware of all of the issues beyond the arts that face our society through my founding of the nation’s first arts policy center, the multidisciplinary UF Center for the Arts and Public Policy and its many subsequent diverse programs.

There was a lot of history you covered in the book and examined in different ways. How much research did you undertake for this book?

It took eight years to complete the book, and every part of it was researched in depth over and over again. As an artist, I was convinced that it was imperative for me to take greater pains than a historian to ensure the accuracy of the text.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about the modern American political system?

As I researched material for the art images, I re-learned a great deal about American history. It also became apparent to me that far too many Americans did not know, did not understand, or did not believe our history. I first noticed this in the 1990s with the polarization of students in several of the art law classes. A significant number of the third year law students were politically to the far right, espoused Evangelical Christianity, and even admitted that they were studying art law in order to learn how to better censor art. In the early 2000s, I created an art class titled Drawing, Politics and Graphic Propaganda focusing on the editorial cartoon. For the several years that I taught this class, students literally split into two separate, polarized, opposing groups. This situation was most apparent during the class critiques when students presented their completed editorial cartoons. Half of them––literally––lined up on the right side of the room, the other half on the left. And that division was completely reflected by the views they espoused during the critique session.

You convey facts with metaphors and various storytelling devices. Was this intentional or incidental to your writing style?

I attempted to inform the viewer-reader both visually and through my written analysis. I recognized that the small slate was the chalkboard of education in the nineteenth century, but it also reminded me of today’s iPad. This double interpretation was important as I began to utilize the image of a small slate as the vehicle to “educate” viewers about this dilemma. The written accompaniment to this digital art series was inspired by a former student of mine, Patrick Grigsby, who observed––during one of my New Year’s Day celebrations with many friends––that when I talked about my digital art accompanied by the images of the slates on my computer monitor, people could begin to understand it.

As far as either the written and art style is concerned, it is quite eloquently summed up in art critic Peter Frank’s 2003 essay on my work entitled “How you see it, how you don’t.” Frank wrote, “Like an opera singer who has carefully cultivated a dramatic stage presence as well as a golden voice, and who has done so in part to be able to pass on such crucial ambidexterity as part of his or her legacy, O’Connor trains us by showing us by example–example that has not been dumbed down, but cleaned up. He entices us into his intellections not by making them less elusive (or for that matter allusive), but by making their elusions (and certainly their allusions) more inviting. If Americans can learn to eat spicy food, they can learn to ‘read’ art.”

Author Links: Website

Artist/art professor John A. O’Connor characterizes his series White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism as “a history of American hypocrisy.” Using the image of the slate as a consistent base, White Lies Matter ranges across historical and contemporary America, touching down at flashpoints of inequality, misunderstanding, and conflict. From the gradual decay of national institutions to more immediate political crises, O’Connor’s project traverses a list of illegalities and cover-ups, oppressions and suppressions, tracing links between individuals and institutions in positions of influence. It begins with Christopher Columbus and the First Thanksgiving—mythologies that crumble very easily by now—and moves on through the contradictory and belated embedding of religion in the nation’s founding documents, to the calamitous installation of Donald Trump as its 45th president. White Lies Matter: Decoding American Deceptionalism reveals the deceptions, lies, and cynicism of America and the “fake news” and “alt- facts” that permeate contemporary society. Note: Michael Wilson is a New York-based writer and editor and the author of How to Read Contemporary Art: Experiencing the Art of the 21st Century (New York: Abrams, 2013).

Available on iUniverse

It’s Music Time

It’s Music Time by T.C. Bartlett is an incredibly detailed and enchanting children’s story. When a young boy is on his way to his music lesson, he finds himself getting distracted by a group of animals playing their own music. He finds it exciting and joins them, but he risks being late to his class!

T. C. Bartlett has created a children’s picture book with almost no words except on the first and last page to give some context  to this visual story. The author does an amazing job of using just illustrations to tell a fun story. Every page is easy to understand and is illustrated with rich color, charming characters, and movement. The transition between black and white and bright colors helps set the mood throughout the book, helping you to better understand the boy’s emotions the entire time. The story is very cute and the art is very well done and I am blown away by T.C. Bartlett’s ability to convey such an enjoyable story with only images.

The use of Bartlett’s beautiful artwork makes the story so much more enticing and makes this book stand out in the children’s picture book genre. The storyline is easily told by character’s expressions and movements, making it an easy read for kids. It’s Music Time is easily the best children’s book I’ve read this month.

Pages: 50 | ISBN: 0998471690

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Slaves to Desire

Slaves to Desire is composed of 11 short stories that are as insightful as they are erotic. By weaving fictional tales around some of the most successful European artists of all time, she manages to find that storytelling sweet spot between fact and fiction.

The book talks of George Sand, Salvador Dali, Antonin Artaud, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, and even Hamlet and Ophelia as if they were here with us today. The poetic and emotional way in which this book is written left me with a deeper understanding of what it means to be an artist.

As I progressed from page to page, I was confronted by melancholy, mania, and deep love. Great was the love of one character that they cared for their ill lover till death took them away, leaving her without enough strength to attend the funeral.

Another character, crushed by the pain of being separated from their ailing lover for years, suffers a stroke and struggles to learn how to paint again. But of all the stories, the one that resonates with me the most is the one of the artist plagued by relentless loneliness and melancholy that seems only to be cured by painting.

But even then, they prefer solitude over the company of others. As a writer who spends a lot of time alone, this story is deeply relatable to me and forces me to think more deeply about my life. Ultimately, Slaves to Desire is much more than a book about sex, it discusses complex issues that are inherent to the human condition.

Apart from love, some of the running themes include the need for belonging, the importance of sacrifice, the influence of religion on sexual exploration, and the grief of mourning a loved one’s death. This book is beautifully written, with tons of descriptive language and even quotes from some of the greatest literary pieces of our time. It is clear that the author is a lover of literature and that she poured her heart and soul into this piece.

But it was not lost on me that even these scenes have a deeper meaning to them, giving us more understanding of the psyche of the characters. Slaves to Desire is a well-written and thought-provoking work of art.

Pages: 216 | ASIN: B07SS5D8KR

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BUTTERBALL Gets Lost

BUTTERBALL Gets Lost (Butterball the Poodle Book 2) by [Julia Seaborn]

Butterball Gets Lost by Julia Seaborn is a children’s picture book about a poodle named Butterball, with illustrations by Toby Mikle. After Butterball is left home alone when her owner goes shopping she digs under the fence and goes exploring. Butterball then sees an interesting hole and looks inside where she gets stuck. This is when the cute little bunny named Binky helps set her free. After Binky helps her get free, Butterball continues on and meets JillaRoo, a kangaroo. Later, Butterball ends up at the circus and realizes she doesn’t know the way home. Will someone be able to help her find her way home?

Butterball Gets Lost is able to capture the feel of adventure and exploration in a short picture book. The artwork was beautiful, with a soft color pallete and simple art, it easily captures your attention and inspires the imagination. I liked the illustrations, especially the colorful lizards and other animals that Butterball meets along the way. These creatures were all emotive and usually happy. This book teaches young readers about animals and counting while entertaining children with a fun story. The questions at the end of the story help children practice counting and assess comprehension. I appreciated the Fun Facts at the end of the book which provides more information about owls, although this section might require a slightly more advanced reading level than the story.

Butterball Gets Lost is the second book in the Butterball the Poodle series. This is a fantastic continuation in Jualia Seaborn’s children’s literature series. Beginning readers will be entertained and educated all in one book.

Pages: 32 | ASIN: B08863JHJW

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Accentuating the Positive

Dr. Qooz Author Interview

Dr. Qooz Author Interview

Chasing Scaredy Away empowers children to conquer their fear by showing how Zora the zebra overcomes her own. How do children develop a fear of the dark and how can parents help overcome it?

Children develop fear of the dark from what they hear from electronic media, friends, and parents. Accentuating the positive, pointing out early that there are no ghosts, monsters and boogie man and explain light chases the imagined creatures away.

Your books always have bright and clean art. How do you choose which animals to incorporate into your story?

The animals in Dr. Qooz’ stories all have personalities of their own. These personalities are matched to the story for best inevitability.

What can readers expect in the next installment in your Fargone series?

The next Fargone story will be about individualism of the child and how important it is to be you and not what your friends declare they want you to be. Fat Harriet the Hippo is accosted by a new classmate, Weezy the Weasel, that wants to do a makeover.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Chasing Scaredy Away is a picture book with a positive solution to help your child’s night fears. Zora has a history of being a fraidy-zebra. A simple shopping trip creates an imaginary monster that comes home to frighten Zora that night. Mother Zebra shows Zora a solution for dissolving her night fears, chasing scaredy away, and leaving Zora empowered and unafraid. Reading a children’s book with facts the child can use and depend upon for the rest of the child’s life will help your child overcome their fears and move on.

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It’s OK to be Different

In her children’s book, It’s OK to be Different, Sharon Purtill endeavors to teach her young audience an important lesson that all children – and adults – need to learn:  that although people may differ in the things they like, the way they live, and the way they look, everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect and kindness.

I think Purtill’s book has a great message and one that is especially important in a modern world that is connected globally like never before. By teaching children to be accepting of themselves and of others, Purtill challenges the need to fit into a stereotypical idea of “normal” while emphasizing that everyone is different in one way or another. The use of rhyming, simple examples, and colorful illustrations makes the book flow well and makes it one that is easy to read and is likely to appeal to Purtill’s young audience.

Although Purtill’s message is solid, I think she could jump to the issues that are likely to really matter, like differences in appearance, speech, or abilities/disabilities, earlier in the book. With that being said, the book has a great message for children, is easy and fun to read, and has delightful illustrations to capture the eyes and minds of its audience.

Pages: 30 | ISBN: 0973410442

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“Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!”

"Bottom Down, Penelope Brown!" by [Pulliam, April B.]

For as long as she can remember Penelope Brown can’t stay sitting down. She wiggles and worms, dances and turns, and every teacher she’s had will insist throughout class that she remain in her seat. As Penelope enters the third grade, she dreads the new teacher, knowing exactly what she will say – or will she?

April Pulliam delivers a touching message with a simple story. The characters are kept to a minimum to focus on the issues at hand. Penelope is likable and relatable; she is described in good light with age-appropriate language. I appreciate how Pulliam never outright stated Penelope’s difficulties as a problem. She consistently views the characters through a young child’s perspective.

Penelope struggles, like many children, to stay in her seat. Like many young children she wriggles and squirms and is brimming with energy. How do children handle this? How do they handle the teachers that constantly tell them to put their ‘bottom down’? These are lessons that I think many elementary school children can relate to and one that is presented in a fun and understanding manner in this book.

Pulliam and Grantham team up to craft a wonderful opportunity to introduce and validate a child’s woes comparable to Penelope. I would highly recommend Bottom Down, Penelope Brown for the modern classroom.

Pages: 23 | ASIN: B07SRX418X

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