Michael E. Arth: Introspective 1972-1982

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Like Man Ray, Herbert Bayer, Edvard Munch, and others, Arth is both an elegant draughtsman and an accomplished photographer. Introspective entertainingly demonstrates that the two modes of expression can be mutually enhancing. From “Botanica Exotica,” a chapter that infectiously illustrates Arth’s fascination with primordial palms and palmettos, to “China,” a stranger-in-a-strange-land travelogue punctuated with portraits of Red Chinese and studies of their setting, there is a lot to look at and think about in this circumscribed self-portrait.

Other artists (like Salvadore Dali and Giovanni Jacopo Casanova in their eloquently egocentric autobiographies) look into mirrors, even lover’s eyes, and see only themselves. Introspective is a mirror of a different sort, one that can be used to truly see the world through the eyes of an artist.

—Roger Rapp of The Bloomsbury Review

“Each picture in this book constitutes a kind of mini-obsession…Every picture I’ve chosen has absorbed me in some maniacal way for a period of time. Some images, as well as with most of the photographs, were accompanied by a momentary excitement passing on an otherwise unassuming day. Other images are the product of a whole range of emotions, not unlike the cycle of certain human relationships.”

Michael E. Arth, Introspective: 1972-1982

In this dynamic retrospective, artist and adventurer Michael E. Arth takes us on a revealing journey through fantastical realms filled with exotic images. Introspective brings us ten years of prolific and imaginative work created by Arth between the ages of 19 and 29. What is special about this book is that the reader is allowed to journey into the mind of the artist through his series of self-revealing writings. Rarely does one have the opportunity like his to get a visual as well as literary perspective from the same artist.

Many artists create a successful image and subsequently repeat the elements of this image to develop a distinctive mark for themselves. In this book, Arth proves himself to be an artist of a different nature. Arth’s “mini-obsessions” with a variety of topics, while seemingly initially disparate, form a fascinating gestalt. While Introspective spans many topics, running throughout is the thread of fantasy. A lexicon of words, images and symbols, Introspective captures the reader and transports him into the artist’s world. For example, in “Mount Tamalpais” the author combines both myth and a personal mystical vision to create a powerfully illustrated fable.

Originally this book was to be entitled “Fantasies and Gentle Dreams.” In “Botanica Exotica,” Arth carries fantasy into his fascination with botanical themes. Like a botanist, Arth examines each and every flower of his journeys, both real and imagined. He has the unique ability to both dream as an artist and eloquently translate these dreams into highly refined images that breathe of effortless precision.

In the delicately balanced photographs taken during Arth’s many worldly peregrinations, he displays a masterful sense of composition and rhythm. For example, when one first sees the black and white photograph “Moscow Circus” an acrobat appears to be hanging from a cluster of balloons. The silhouette on the side of the tent reveals that he is actually hanging from a rope. The figure of the trapeze artist is counterbalanced by his own silhouette. There is a delicious confusion between the two figures. Which one is real?

In the final chapter, illustrated exclusively by computer-generated images, Arth’s fascination with fantasy comes full circle. The artist speculates about a future where computers have evolved to the point where human thoughts can be materialized. He even tantalizingly suggests that we may already exist in such a world and not know it.

Arth sometimes uses a holographic metaphor when describing how the diverse elements of his work make a coherent whole. If one cuts a small corner from a hologram, that corner will still reveal the entirety of the image. If the universe is like a hologram, as some physicists theorize, then everything in this universe is interconnected on a fundamental level. When a hologram is viewed from a certain angle or under unfavorable light conditions, it will appear to be nothing more than a two-dimensional piece of film covered with interference patterns. When the coherent light rays of a laser pass through it, this jumble of patterns becomes a sparkling three-dimensional image. Like a hologram, Introspective may at first appear to be composed of unrelated patterns. However, after all the individual elements are examined, each of those elements takes on a meaning that illuminates the whole artist. The result is exquisite.

—T. Quilian

More of Arth’s artwork and photographs may be viewed at Art & Design.

Michael E. Arth: Introspective 1972-1982: We have a couple of signed, first edition books with pristine book jackets available for $375. each, including shipping. Send a check along with your mailing address to:

Golden Apples Media
302 S. Hayden Avenue
DeLand, FL 32724

Or you can obtain used copies through various booksellers at Alibris or Amazon.com.