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Book Review: On Tender Hooks

book_samaras1Artist Isabel Samaras is one sick puppy. At least that’s the impression I got while looking through the paintings collected in On Tender Hooks: The Art of Isabel Samaras. Back in the ’90s, Samaras first made a name for herself by adorning cast-off metal trays with provocative images of classic TV characters in the style of old master painters. Picture Mary Ann and Ginger from Gilligan’s Island sharing a tender moment of Sapphic love, the cast of I Dream of Jeannie at Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, or Batman‘s Robin posed like a flirty Caravaggio boy. These pieces would seem silly if they weren’t rendered with such obvious affection for the characters.

Interesting as her earlier stuff is, Samaras’ work has gotten even better in recent years. Her painting technique has improved exponentially, giving the work that much more depth. Although she still handles pop culture subjects (a disturbing Marsha Brady with Maori tattoos, for example), more timeless themes such as fairy tales give the newer works a lot more resonance. They’re lush, dark and unsettling, reminding me a bit of Mark Ryden‘s art. Supplemented with essays and interviews, this book is a beautifully designed showcase for Samaras’ abundant talents. If I could only get that image of Spock’s family jewels out of my head.

On Tender Hooks is published by Chronicle. Buy at Amazon here. Although I have a few spreads pictured below, you really have to visit Samaras’ official site to fully appreciate this stuff (she does a swell weblog, too).

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