Tuesday, July 16, 2019

BLOOD WATER PAINT by Joy McCullough.  New York:  Dutton Books, 2018.  291p.  ISBN 978-073523211-2 hc. $17.99    Gr. 9-12    Y.A.FIC 

This bit of historical fiction, which tells the story of 17 year-old Artemisia Gentileschi of Rome, 
highlights the young artist's seventeenth year.  Artemisia lives to paint.  She is far more talented 
with a brush than her father, who signs his name to the finished paintings before selling them, 
even though he insists that she work to improve her technique.  When Artemisia's father sends 
an established painter, Agostino Tassi, to the studio to tutor her, the atmosphere changes from 
flirtatious to sexually aggressive.  He rapes her and takes no responsibility for the incident.  
She's only a woman - someone's property.  Artemisia has no rights, but insists on a trial anyway, 
where she submits to social humiliation and physical torture to prove her innocence.  This story, 
written in verse, switches to prose whenever Artemisia remembers her mother's retelling of
Biblical stories from the perspective of resilient women, such as Susanna and Judith.  
Artemisia takes inspiration from these women, who were also trapped in circumstances where 
men controlled their lives.  The idea of perspective is front and center, in the retelling of Bible 
stories from a woman's point of view, in the creation of paintings with a feminine eye vs. that 
of a man, and the interjection of our modern-day expectations into a historical setting.  Don't 
miss the Afterword for more information about this amazing Italian artist who was born four 
centuries too early for her independent thoughts.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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