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Soul in the Stone

Cemetery Art from America's Heartland

John Gary Brown

256 pages, 223 black-and-white photographs, 8-1/2 x 11
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0634-4, $39.95

Book Cover ImageJohn Gary Brown's richly evocative photographs remind us that cemeteries--shadowy markers of death and grief--also shine forth with life and art. By turns starkly sobering, nostalgic, provocative, and quirkily humorous, his photos capture the human spirit preserved in all of its amazing diversity.

Celebrating master stone sculptors as well as grassroots and ethnic folk artists, Brown's striking images document the rich traditions of cemetery art as found throughout Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. The art itself manifests a great many idiosyncratic forms and subjects including an Egyptian sphinx, a gigantic baseball, a salesman's suitcase, a rolltop desk, a car-engine shrine, plexiglass-enclosed dolls, life-size limestone statuary, hovering marble angels, elaborate wrought-iron crosses, along with more modest traditional motifs in etched-grantie and concrete.

Brown's own artistry and insights illuminate the ways in which these works embody or reflect personal grief, family relationships, religious and ethnic values, social status, occupations, avocations, aesthetics, as well as unrealized hopes and dreams. Both informative and entertaining, his book provides a haunting tribute to this neglected art form.

"This is a very important book. Here is a portal opening on significances within cemetery monuments. Indeed here is a portal opening on worlds beyond the grave, beyond the graveyard."--John Stilgoe, author of Borderland: Origins of the American Suburb

"The book's power is its wonderful, evocative photographs. Using such illustrations, Brown defines the place of the gravestone and cemetery in the vernacular culture of America's heartland."--David C. Sloane, author of The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History

"A most welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on American cemeteries and gravemarkers, and, through its focus upon the nation's heartland, a significant contribution to the study of American regionalism."--Richard E. Meyer, editor of Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture

JOHN GARY BROWN is a professional photographer in Lawrence, Kansas. He has photographed cemeteries in most of the countries of Europe, in Mexico, and in the Middle East, as well as throughout the United States. His photographs have appeared in Smithsonian, Americana, and Architectural Digest.

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