The NOMA Book Club meets monthly to discuss fiction and nonfiction books related to art in NOMA’s collection and exhibitions. It is an informal group open to anyone on a month-to-month basis. You do not have to attend every meeting or read every book! In addition to monthly book discussions, the Book Club meets periodically for curatorial programs related to the book selections. Books are selected in advance and planned for the entire year according to the exhibition schedule. Participants are expected to procure their own copy of the selected titles. Meetings are held in person or via Zoom, determined at the beginning of each month. All meetings begin at 12 pm.
For more information on the NOMA Book Club please contact NOMA’s Curator of Education, Tracy Kennan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 658-4113.
ANNOUNCING THE 2021 MONTHLY READING SELECTIONS
Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel
Back Bay Books, 2019, ISBN: 9780316226172
Set amid the most turbulent social and political period of modern times, Ninth Street Women is the impassioned, wild, sometimes tragic, always exhilarating chronicle of five women who dared to enter the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting—not as muses but as artists. From their cold-water lofts, where they worked, drank, fought, and loved, these pioneers burst open the door to the art world for themselves and countless others to come. Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler changed American art and society, tearing up the prevailing social code and replacing it with a doctrine of liberation. In Ninth Street Women, acclaimed author Mary Gabriel tells a remarkable and inspiring story of the power of art and artists in shaping not just postwar America but the future.
CURATORIAL PROGRAM | FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 12 pm with Katie Pfohl, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
BOOK DISCUSSION | FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 12 pm
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
Faucett, 1987, ISBN: 0449215040
Photographer, writer, and composer, Gordon Parks wrote this moving, true-to-life novel of growing up as a Black man in twenieth-century America. Hailed by critics and readers alike, The Learning Tree tells the extraordinary journey of a family as they struggle to understand the world around them and leave their mark a world that is better for their having been in it.
CURATORIAL PROGRAM | FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 12 pm with Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings
BOOK DISCUSSION | FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 12 pm
Midnight Blue: A Novel by Simone van der Vlugt
William Morrow Paperback, 2018, ISBN: 0062686860
Following the sudden death of her husband, 25-year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as a housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the Golden Age and Dutch ships bring back exotic riches from the Far East. Madam Van Nulandt passes her time taking expensive painting lessons from a local master, Rembrandt van Rijn, and when Catrin takes up a brush to finish some of her mistress’s work, Rembrandt realizes the maid has genuine talent, and encourages her to continue. When a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to the smaller city of Delft. There, her gift as a painter earns her a chance to earn a living painting pottery at a local workshop. Her talent revolutionizes the industry, but when tragedy strikes, Catrin must decide whether to defend her newfound independence, or return to the village that she’d fled.
BOOK DISCUSSION with a short CURATORIAL PROGRAM led by Mel Buchanan, RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts and Design | TUESDAY, MARCH 30, 12 pm
Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings by Louis Armstrong, edited and introduction by Thomas Brothers
Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN: 019514046X
This unparalleled collection of Louis Armstrong’s candid writings reveals a side of the jazz artist not widely known to his fans. With idiosyncratic language and punctuation that recalls his musical virtuosity, Armstrong presents his thoughts on his life and career—from abject poverty in New Orleans to playing in the famous cafes, cabarets, and saloons of Storyville; from his big break in 1922 with the King Oliver band, to his storming of New York; from his breaking of color barriers in Hollywood to the infamous King of the Zulus incident in 1949; and finally, to his last days in Queens, New York.
EDITORIAL PROGRAM | TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 12 pm with David Johnson, Editor of Museum Publications
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 12 pm
Apeirogan: A Novel by Colum McCann
Random House, 2021, ISBN: 1400069602
Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on to the schools their children attend to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate. But their lives, however circumscribed, are upended one after the other: first, Rami’s 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, becomes the victim of suicide bombers; a decade later, Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, is killed by a rubber bullet. Rami and Bassam had been raised to hate one another. And yet, when they learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them. Together they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace—and with their one small act, start to permeate what has for generations seemed an impermeable conflict. This extraordinary novel is the fruit of a seed planted when the novelist Colum McCann met the real Bassam and Rami on a trip with the non-profit organization Narrative 4. McCann was moved by their willingness to share their stories with the world, by their hope that if they could see themselves in one another, perhaps others could too.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | THURSDAY, MAY 27, 12 pm
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
Ankor, 1993, ISBN: 0385425139
Azaro, is an abiku, a spirit child, who in the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria exists between life and death. The life he foresees for himself and the tale he tells is full of sadness and tragedy, but inexplicably he is born with a smile on his face. Nearly called back to the land of the dead, he is resurrected. But in their efforts to save their child, Azaro’s loving parents are made destitute. The tension between the land of the living, with its violence and political struggles, and the temptations of the carefree kingdom of the spirits propels this latter-day Lazarus’s story.
CURATORIAL PROGRAM | TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 12 pm with Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of Africa
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 12 pm
Estelle: A Novel by Linda Stewart Henley
She Writes Press, 2021, ISBN: 1631527916
Estelle, named for Edgar Degas’s cousin and sister-in-law, tells the story of the French Impressionist’s five-month visit with his Creole relatives in New Orleans in 1872-73. The artist arrives without paints or ambition and Estelle is worried. Despite problems of her own, she encourages him and he eventually paints several family portraits, one of which assures his fame. A century later, Anne Gautier struggles to start a career as an artist in New Orleans while restoring an old house she inherited. From an old journal she learns about Estelle, Edgar, and her Creole ancestors. A portrait of Estelle causes trouble, and Anne is forced to confront truths about people she knows as she establishes her life in the 1970s. This historical fiction novel includes history, romance, family saga, mystery, art, and a touch of humor as events unfold.
CURATORIAL PROGRAM | TUESDAY, JULY 29, 12 pm with Tracy Kennan, Curator of Education
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | THURSDAY, JULY 29, 12 pm
There There by Tommy Orange
Vingate, 2019, ISBN: 0525436146
Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | FRIDAY, AUGUST 27, 12 pm
The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes
Knopf, 2021, ISBN: 0525658777
In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days’ intellectual shopping: a prince, a count, and a commoner with an Italian name. In time, each of these men would achieve a certain level of renown, but who were they then and what was the significance of their sojourn to England? Answering these questions, Julian Barnes unfurls the stories of their lives which play out against the backdrop of the Belle Époque in Paris.
Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, the society doctor, free-thinker and man of science with a famously complicated private life who was the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits. In this vivid tapestry of people (Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust, James Whistler, among many others), place, and time, we see not merely an epoch of glamour and pleasure, but, surprisingly, one of violence, prejudice, and nativism—with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 12 pm
Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser
Ecco, 2021, ISBN: 0062896407
No writer is as emblematic of the American twentieth century as Susan Sontag. Mythologized and misunderstood, lauded and loathed, a girl from the suburbs who became a proud symbol of cosmopolitanism, Sontag left a legacy of writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, radicalism and Fascism and Freudianism and Communism and Americanism, that forms an indispensable key to modern culture. She was there when the Cuban Revolution began, and when the Berlin Wall came down; in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel, in besieged Sarajevo. She was in New York when artists tried to resist the tug of money—and when many gave in. No writer negotiated as many worlds; no serious writer had as many glamorous lovers. Sontag tells these stories and examines the work upon which her reputation was based. It explores the agonizing insecurity behind the formidable public face: the broken relationships, the struggles with her sexuality, that animated—and undermined—her writing.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 12 pm
The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis
Ballantine Books, 2019, ISBN: 1984819259
In 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s small oil painting the Salvator Mundi was sold at auction. In the words of its discoverer, the image of Christ as savior of the world is “the rarest thing on the planet.” Its $450 million sale price also makes it the world’s most expensive painting.
For two centuries, art dealers had searched in vain for the Holy Grail of art history: a portrait of Christ as the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci. Many similar paintings of greatly varying quality had been executed by Leonardo’s assistants in the early 16th century. But where was the original by the master himself? In November 2017, Christie’s auction house announced they had it. But did they?
The Last Leonardo tells a thrilling tale of a spellbinding icon invested with the power to make or break the reputations of scholars, billionaires, kings, and sheikhs. Ben Lewis takes us to Leonardo’s studio in Renaissance Italy; to the court of Charles I and the English Civil War; to Amsterdam, Moscow, and New Orleans; to the galleries, salerooms, and restorer’s workshop as the painting slowly, painstakingly emerged from obscurity. The vicissitudes of the highly secretive art market are charted across six centuries. It is a twisting tale of geniuses and oligarchs, double-crossings and disappearances, in which we’re never quite certain what to believe. Above all, it is an adventure story about the search for lost treasure, and a quest for the truth.
BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 12 pm