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I read this in college, where I majored in Art. It was responsible for the majority of my developing sculptural style! This book illustrates the origin of the word "Grotesque". Initially, the term was coined to describe an ornate art form that was anything but ugly or deformed, it's a celebration of forms; a metaphoric blending of human, animal, plant and architectural shapes that had no religious or moral message, other than that of Unity. Up until this period, almost all (European) visual Art had religious motives. The emergence of the "grotesque" period during the Italian Renaissance marked the first time Art was made "for Art's sake" alone. Which of course, opened a creative door that had remained locked by the oppressive church for over 1000 years. Today you can see this decorative sculpture everywhere in, on, and around buildings in cities all across the world, just like here where I live in San Francisco.
We are taken to beginning: when explorers discover a long buried palace of the Roman empire known as the "Domus Aurea". Here long forgotten frescoes, beautiful painted images of mixed human, animal, and plant forms covers the walls. Since this excavation was underground and appeared cave-like to Renaissance era Italy, the work it inspired was said to come from "the grotto", hence the term "grotto-esque"!
But the author goes deeper into the mythological cave of man. And we discover it is no coincidence that images like these were found in "a cave". Mythologically, Psychologically, and Biologically the concept of all forms of life on earth emerging from the metaphoric "womb of mother Earth" seems almost too devine to comprehend. In it we discover that this simple word, "Grotesque", may have a significance far more profound and uniting to humanity and the earth we live on than any previous Religious works in Western Arts could even touch.
This book rearranged my perception of Art AND the animals that create it
(US). In modern times, the word "grotesque" may have come to describe something ugly, but it's origins are rich and fascinating. The illustrations in this book are marvelous aswell!
American Fiction and the Metaphysics of the Grotesque
Limited preview - 1996