Library Journal Review of SKULL
by Nancy J. Mactague, formerly Aurora Univ. Lib., IL.
Over the course of 25 years, photographer Stern has created eight series of skull photographs, almost 150 tritone and quadratone images, all of which are included in this volume. Both Stern and art critic Kuspit make it clear that the camera does not equal the eye; the eye synthesizes and the camera analyzes.
The omnipotence of death, not the omnipotence of the artist is Stern’s theme. While photographing, Stern’s conscious concerns were formal; however, those concerns yielded emotion-fraught images, and she admits that she is still striving to accept death, which for her, is changeable and dynamic. Kuspit’s inclusion of art from Renaissance to contemporary times, such as Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors (1533), with a distorted skull in the foreground, and still lifes with skulls by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, and Georges Braque, as well as footnotes to the works of other scholars, provides a firm ground on which to consider Stern’s photographs.
VERDICT The combination of Stern’s “deliteralization” of the skulls photographed and the philosopher/art historian’s contextualization of those images makes this book the perfect starting point for a multidisciplinary discussion or course on photography, philosophy, art history, and comparative religion. SKULL; Thames & Hudson; October 2017; 336pages, illus; ISBN 9780500970836;