(Ann Althouse/Flickr)

Author Camille Paglia is best-known for her contrarian views on art and culture, as well as her outspoken critiques of modern feminism. Her latest book, “Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars” is a survey of Western art and a collection of essays on 29 significant pieces of art spanning 33 centuries.

Interview Highlights

On Contempory Art

I spent five years writing this book and I was looking for examples of contemporary art to end this book which crosses 3,000 years from ancient Egypt. I couldn't find anything strong in the contemporary arts. Instead, every single thing I saw reminded me of like 20 other things in the last 200 years. So, that's why my last chapter, it wasn't what I planned, is a celebration of George Lucas as the world's greatest living artist.

On Madonna

Madonna was so important from 1983-1992. We tolerate her now. She can do whatever she wants, but she's in a terrible slide, I'm afraid. I wish she had modeled herself on her great model, Marlene Dietrich, who knew how to age gracefully. Alas, but Madonna changed the world. I mean, you can find in India and Japan, performance styles have utterly changed because of her. She's been so absorbed into culture that people think we don't need her anymore.

On Appealing to Conservatives

What I am trying to do with this book is to reach across the entire political landscape. I am appealing to conservatives to look at art, to reconsider art, and to take into their home the history of art. Particularly home schooling moms I am aiming at.

On Appealing to Liberals

I am also trying to reach liberals by saying, "Enough already, of these sterile shock tactics. Enough of the Christopher-Hitchens style of snarky atheism based on ignorance of religion. You must respect religion. You can condemn the hierarchies, the abuses of the bishops and the Pope and so on. But at the same time every religion of the world is enormously comprehensive and deep [in] what it portrays about human existence.

On Pornography

Young people today are trapped in an over technological environment, very sterile. They're just surrounded by machines, and therefore pornography is actually a window into a wild world of nature, what you're seeing are the elemental passions that have been sanitized out of everyday life.

On Lady Gaga

If people think that Lady Gaga, is important art? Its gimmick, gimmick, gimmick and that is exactly why my book is needed. And why people need to go backwards in time. I mean for heavens sakes there have been great art works produced in popular culture, let me just give you an example: Stevie Nick, "Gold Dust Woman," done by Fleetwood Mac, that is a work of art. Madonna's "Vogue" video was a work of art. Even Adele's great, "Rolling in the Deep," and "Set Fire to the Rain," these are works of art. People that are stuck on Lady Gaga have debased taste.

On Sarah Palin and the Pro-Life Movement

Well, ya know, I think, Sarah Palin had more executive experience, when she arrived on the national scene than our current president, Obama, did. I mean, I think the way she was treated was absolutely atrocious; there was a campaign of personal destruction that came from the liberal mainstream media, entirely devoted to her pro-life position. Now I am radically pro-choice, okay, but I feel that this denigration of the pro-life position by members of my party, the Democratic Party, is grossly unethical; that in fact the moral weight of this argument is on the other side. The way that my party stereotypes pro-life believers by saying, "They just want to gain control of women's bodies" — nonsense. To say that life begins at conception is a very profound statement. I don't happen to agree with it, but I can respect the moral basis beneath it. So I believe what was done to Sarah Palin will live in infamy.

On the Similarity Between Real Housewives series and Opera

The passions, the deep emotions that overflow from the Real Housewives series, is one of the reasons I value it, in the same way I value great opera, like Puccini. And that's was missing from the sterile ideologies of academe — with their snarkiness and their superciliousness and their cynicism and their high concept. There's a volcanic quality to the Real Housewives series.

Guests:
Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Am so happy to hear Professor Paglia, whom I was exposed to in 1990 by my husband’s San Francisco neuro psychiatrist at the time (my husband had brain injuries from being hit by a drunk driver).

    She is a provocative thinker whom this physician noted would be pleasing to my curious mind. He was spot on!

  • TimDoyle
  • BRAVO !!!!! as a lifelong artist, myself, who has spent decades exploring the possibilities of abstraction in a society that generally has little or no use for such things, i am inspired to read ms. paglia’s books. thanks for having her as a guest on your show, michael.

  • April

    wow does she talk fast!

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      (smiling) She has always talked fast, which when I heard her the first time in the early 90’s caught me off guard.

      • willcommentforfood

        She fillibusters.

    • mike

      She talks fast to completely shut out any other points of views or discussion. She is pretty much a human vuvuzela. It’s why she can get away with talking so much garbage, no one can get a word in to tell her that she is an idiot.

  • victoria s.

    I agree with her on some things…

  • Andygoldberg

    The Post-Modern Painter Eric Fischl is speaking at the San Jose Museum tomorrow, could Ms. Paglia offer us any suggestions as to what to listen for?

  • fogdodger

    Though articulate and persuasive, some of her opinions miss the target. The LSD (fried brains) comment and a few other assertions are ludicrous.

    • willcommentforfood

      Most of her opinions don’t stand up to any scrutiny. For example, her fixation on Madonna while she bashed Lady Gaga for allegedly having violent sex portrayals in her shows. Madonna had s&m in her shows, recorded Papa Don’t Preach -message teens get pregnant and keep your baby, and did a video sexualizing a young boy. It makes no sense.

  • Ramona

    I used to enjoy Camille but I am pretty she’s a dinosaur stuck somewhere in the space time continuum.

  • Annascrilliams

    Per Camille’s assertion that all contemporary art is derivative, what is her opinion on the Creator’s Project and the digital art that’s coming out of this program?

  • librarian

    what does camille think of sister wendy?

  • Tanja Srebotnjak

    Ms. Paglia’s comparison of Obamacare with Stalinist policies made me cringe. As a European living in America I’m having a difficult time understanding American politics and culture, especially when it comes to the issues of (a) healthcare, (b) women’s rights, (c) the role of religion in politics and (d) climate change policies. Having grown up in former Eastern Germany, I cannot fathom how anybody could compare a law designed to help millions of uninsured Americans obtain affordable healthcare — a good that is unlike any other market good in its characteristics of unpredictability of demand and lopsided information basis between patients and doctors and hence requires a special approach — to ultraextremist communist and dictatorial policies of the Stalin era. Please, let’s keep this Forum fact-focused and constructive! It seems that Ms. Paglia may have ventured too far into an area outside of her expertise.

    • fogdodger

      Yes, at this point, she was starting to scare me.

  • Jim

    Although I sometimes agree with Camille Paglia she has become an expert at turning people off and insulting those who might think differently.

  • rodni hipp
  • Crikey! Camille has lost the plot!

  • karen edwards

    Paglia paints a pessimistic picture of our society’s ability to appreciate art. I feel my children have much better access to art and art history today through the Internet, museums, and documentaries on Cable TV, than I did growing up. With just the slightest bit of encouragement, kids have the ability to access art and art history on their own, and when they discover it for themselves, it is very powerful.

  • theymightbegiants

    Great insight re: the art medium…more like her please. But, similar to Clint Eastwood, her credibility is a tad shaken a by her political notions.

  • John Davies

    Paglia’s brash opinions sometimes miss the mark, but I think it is a mistake to dismiss her entirely. Her severest critics – no surprise – are the tenured pseudo-intellectual postmodern popinjays that she routinely eviscerates. Paglia’s greatest gift is her encouragement of folks to THINK FOR THEMSELVES regardless of her own little dogmas. Glittering Images, by the way, is fantastic.

    • willcommentforfood

      The problem with her opinions is that they are all about her and her projections. They don’t inform or elevate, and she seeks to provoke to get attention and sell books. She is no Alistair Cooke, or Joseph Campbell, not by a long shot.

    • fogdodger

      Good summation of her.

  • timholton

    I’m very interested in this subject and was eager and receptive to her ideas, but she speaks at a pace that seems calculated and aimed merely to impress, not help understand. So I could barely listen to the whole interview, and my hard work of listening didn’t pay off much: in the end she offers little true dissent but just more of the standard hype of a few individual art geniuses we’ve been fed for hundreds of years. In her pretentiousness she’s as blind as most art school academics (yes, Ms Paglia, you are an academic) to the authentic and vital vernacular of the healthiest civilizations and joins the orthodoxy in pushing the art of mass marketing and self-promotion. She wants great art without cultivating its roots in our common daily life and work. She ignores the great beauty of commonplace buildings, decorations and useful objects that have occupied most human beings throughout history and provided the necessary and nourishing basis for the most refined and accomplished works. Hardly a dissenting view, her whole analysis seems to rest on the stale and extremely orthodox and elitist view that equates art with images — images hung for us to pay to see in museums or streamed into our houses by profit-driven corporations.

    Civilization was built by many arts. One is the art of speaking. The suggestion was made that we need to slow down. Her fast talk seemed intended to dazzle, not enlighten; to enhance personal celebrity, not the beauty of our common life. So what’s new in the art world?

    A far better view of art history is offered by Larry Shiner’s _The Invention of Art_.

  • Guest

    As a young woman I read ‘Sexual Personae’ and found Paglia’s thinking
    interesting and provocative. Over time, however, it seems her cultural
    assessments spout out like a gushing out of control firehose, here and
    there hitting the mark, but more often than hyperbolic opinion based
    rhetoric landing far off the target. I fully agreed with the listener
    who pegged Paglia as a “verbal bully” and questioned her assessment of Madonna as art, and Gaga as nothing
    noteworthy. I’m not a fan of either performer’s music (I was a teenage
    punk when Madonna was owning the 80s) but I do recognize Gaga has unique
    cultural relevance to her generation, as Madonna had import to
    mine. Her criticism of Gaga offered no valid insight on to Gaga’s
    popularity and influence and comes off more like a person using their
    soapbox to sing the praises of one of their pet performers, and “Oh, how
    great, better, superior was life in the past” in effect rendering the critic anitquated and their cultural assessments obsolete. Fitting that Paglia dismissed the caller’s
    opinion by claiming to effect “I wrote a big important book, her opinion
    is worthless.” Bloviate all you want Miss Paglia, many of your former
    readers prefer our cultural critque/provocateur with some amount of
    thoughtfulness and relevance.

    • willcommentforfood

      She is really incapable of defending her views, as demonstrated by the emailer you mentioned. Ironically, her critique of shock art, some of which I agree with, is tainted by her shock method of critique. It’s too bad, while I disagree with the majority of everything she’s ever said, she simply is incapable of making a good case for anything she says, and that makes her not a real intellect, she merely puts others down. That shows her insecurity. And that may be due to being a prominent woman in her era in a male dominated academia, perhaps. Instead of crafting a good argument and dialog, she just spouts like a dirty fountain.

  • Ann von Mehren

    She seems to me to be arguing that artworks made for commissions, patronage, and acceptance into galleries and academies become mannered and predictable. As an excitable and fast-talking Latin-Italian, I have to take exception to criticism of her rapid speech. It is a rapid cadence that reflects her italic heritage, not unlike operatic recitativo or recitative. Think about how Latino or much of world music is often off-putting to the northern European music trained ear — 6/8 time as compared to 4/4 time.

  • cookhskpr

    Grhadevata Camille (cough, cough brrrrrrrrrrrrr) Paglia because of you I have changed my name from Kitty Litter to Kitty GLITTER aka Chairdancer Meow

  • Guest

    As a young woman I read ‘Sexual Personae’ and found Paglia’s thinking
    interesting and provocative. Over time, however, it seems her cultural
    assessments spout out like a gushing out of control firehose, here and
    there hitting the mark, but more often than hyperbolic opinion based
    rhetoric landing far off the target. I fully agreed with the listener
    who pegged Paglia as a “verbal bully” and questioned her assessment of
    Madonna as art, and Gaga as nothing noteworthy. I’m not a fan of either
    performer’s music (I was a teenage punk when Madonna was owning the 80s)
    but I do recognize Gaga has unique cultural relevance to her
    generation, as Madonna had import to mine. Her criticism of Gaga offered
    no valid insight on to Gaga’s popularity and influence and comes off
    more like a person using their soapbox to sing the praises of one of
    their pet performers, and “Oh, how great, better, superior was life in
    the past” in effect rendering the critic anitquated and their cultural
    assessments obsolete. Fitting that Paglia dismissed the caller’s opinion
    by claiming to effect “I wrote a big important book, her opinion is
    worthless.” Bloviate all you want Miss Paglia, many of your former
    readers prefer our cultural critque/provocateur with some amount of
    thoughtfulness and relevance.

  • mike

    This woman has to be a troll right? she can’t be real, for the love of god please tell me she is just joking. I was listening to this during work and was just laughing and laughing and then it struck me. What if this woman in being serious, what if this is what someone actually believes. God help us all.

  • Camille Paglia’s dissident perspective is still a breath of fresh air at a time when some of KQED’s audience think that the programming is only supposed to wave the liberal flag. I don’t agree with all of her views, but love the way she articulates her positions that don’t fit neatly on either ‘side’. I wish we were all taught to think for ourselves as she does. I plan to attend her event this evening, and it will be an honor to have her latest work in the library. I actually plan to give it as a Christmas gift to a few very thoughtful friends, who no doubt will argue with her as well. Many of my LSD experimenting friends do in fact have fried brains now. While I have been impressed with much contemporary art, I am engaged in a full-time battle to expose my children to the rich history behind what their generation appreciates today. Much of the revised history on what is art, what feminism really means, and many other commonly accepted notions presented in popular media deserve critical re-view. Ms. Paglia, please keep provoking us to think for ourselves, and become students of real art.

  • willcommentforfood

    Paglia can dish it out but can’t take it. Her defense of Palin was absurdly ridiculous. The only reason she is famous is not due to her ideas but due to her ridiculous shock talk style of provocative contrary nonsense. She has always been a complete psuedointellectual.

  • willcommentforfood

    Paglia: I’m so GREAT, so any criticism of my ideas is from the little people is because they are morons, according to me, “because I wrote the most important book in the century” (WOW, really?)

    This type of dialog by her clearly shows she has NOTHING to offer.

    Nice interview, Mr. Krasny. You kept your focus and asked good questions with a guest that rambles and has a colossal ego.

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