From the essays in Beauty Beyond Nature: The Glass Art of Paul Stankard (The Robert M. Minkoff Foundation, $80), readers learn that Paul Stankard began his career as an industrial glassblower, that he had to teach himself many of the techniques he uses, and that his small botanical glass pieces have enormous appeal to a wide range of people. But it is the glass works themselves that are the most fascinating, and this book is an attempt to examine them in detail. The volume itself is a beautiful object: thoughtfully written, gorgeously photographed (mostly by Ron Farina, whose photo essay on Stankard’s studio is almost worth the price) and carefully assembled.
It’s hard to characterize Stealing Magnolias: Tales From a New Orleans Courtyard by Debra Shriver as anything but beautiful. The book (Glitterati Inc., $60) is a collection of images, recipes, quotations, memories and meditations on the history, people, food, architecture, art, music and way of life in New Orleans. The author and her husband found their New Orleans dream house three weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck. Already in love, they couldn’t give up the house, or the city. This book, part scrapbook, part memoir, explains why the city and its places and rituals maintain such a hold on them.
The best museum catalogs make you want desperately to see the exhibition on which they’re based, and Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections (D Giles Ltd., $44.95) is no exception. Though highly colorful, the images in this volume can’t quite do justice to the rich mix of collage, watercolor and photography that Bearden used to give texture and movement to his work. As a result, the words become important: the essays put the images into context and point out the contrasts and connections among the pieces. Bearden has become increasingly popular—the U.S. Postal Service is about to put four of his works on postage stamps—and this bright and accessible book shows why.
All the jewelry and vessels in Masters of Contemporary Indian Jewelry by Nancy N. Schiffer (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., $50), clearly belong at in the top ranks of their art. In addition to rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and earrings, the objects include bolo slides, belt buckles, teapots and canteens. Many of the pieces are strongly influenced by the natural world, and images of plants and animals abound. Every piece tells a story, and often it tells something about the life of the artist. You may not want to wear every piece, but you will pore over every page.