Children can open our hearts
instantly delivering us to realms and deeper knowing
DEAN SPEAKS OUT
Joseph Raffael, 2018: Joseph
Raffael and David Pagel Talk: Some Thoughts About
A Book to Open to Any Page. A
Book to Last a Lifetime.
Book Review by P. Dean Robertson
friendship between two men who have never met. A
conversation between an eighty-year-old artist, living in
the South of France, and an art critic for the Los Angeles
Times. A conversation about a subject important to them
both--a conversation about beauty, carried on through
emails. This is the background for this remarkable book, in
which--as conversations between friends often go--the talk
veers from the subject of beauty to thoughts about love and
death and children and marriage, thoughts about life. You
will read about marriages ending, spouses falling ill,
children sick or dying. You will also read about the
discovery of love, the birth and raising of children,
beloved animals, and gardens. When you have finished
reading, you will have two new friends.
The emails, while organized into groups by subject or time
or place, retain the freewheeling flavor of the best kind of
talk. As you read, you will feel you have opened a door and
been granted the privilege of listening in. You will know
you are hearing something profound.
Because Joseph Raffael and David Pagel are readers and
thinkers, every so often one of them will quote a poem or a
novel. This tendency to remind us of all those others who
have been concerned with the important subjects creates a
wonderful richness and layering so that, although these
conversations could stand entirely on their own, we are
reminded that these two men stand in the midst of a long
tradition of just such concerns, just such expression and
exchange of ideas.
Joseph has spent his long life creating beauty with paint
and canvas. David Pagel spends his days covering his
canvases with words--on the pages of a major newspaper and
in the classrooms where he holds out his hand to offer
beauty to his students. They are men who live and breathe
and have their being in the worlds of beauty they create and
I plan to be reading this book every day for the rest of my
A Mesmerizing Journey
Talking Beauty: A Conversation about Art, Love,
Death, and Creativity—By Joseph Raffael and David Pagel
Book Review by Betsy Dillard Stroud
Beauty presents us with
a universe of wisdom, a confluence of issues that are
ubiquitous, and an odyssey of pages that are filled with the
wondrous paintings of Joseph Raffael. The cadence of the
text illustrates the depth and supreme intelligence of both
the painter, Joseph and the Los Angeles art critic and
professor, David Pagel. We become intimately involved not
only in text and paintings but also in photographs which
represent certain turning points or significant stories in
both their lives. We move through contemporary time to
previous times and thought as we, too, join their search for
answers to the major issues about beauty, art, life, death,
Their e-mail conversation is a feat of
storytelling, moving seamlessly from segue to segue,
carrying the reader along revealing their personal
tapestries of discoveries in life, deaths and near deaths of
loved ones, including their animals.
Their conversation is both joyful and
poignant. Often, I found myself weeping because their
openness about their struggles and pain seemed to be my own.
Their conversation is intimate, one
found only between close friends, although in reality, these
two men have never met. We are invited into this
conversation as if we, too, are really there, as friends
listening intensely to their stories. Sometimes questions
arise and often, the explanation lies in a flight to the
poetry or quotations of others.
This is a book to be read and re-read,
as it is a tribute to our own connection to Mankind and the
multi-colored spectrum of existence. There is an abundance
of life written here—all the textures of life--lived and to
be lived and the linchpin which underlies everything is the
beauty found in each experience. When I finished
Talking Beauty, I realized that it
epitomizes what Joseph Campbell meant in his quotation.
“When we get to the end of the journey, we realize that we
are only at the beginning.”
A Case Study of Lived,
Book Review by Dane Goodman, artist/curator
In Talking Beauty we have
the unusual opportunity to “listen in” on an extended email
conversation between the exceptional painter, Joseph Raffael,
and the noted art critic/curator/professor, David Pagel. It
is remarkably candid and intimate given these two have never
met in person. This private dialogue, unguarded and
personal, offers a sensitive appeal to the role, and effect,
of art in contemporary culture.
There is no cynicism, no competition, no meanness, none of
the kind of male language that stereotypes the gender. It is
both a plain spoken and elevated exchange between two men;
each a caring, committed husband and father, who just happen
to be extraordinarily engaged in the visual arts and how it
impacts the world.
This discussion, the subject matter and the way it is talked
about, doesn’t receive significant attention in the art
world today. It hasn’t for years. It was common in the Bay
area art circles in the late 60s and early 70s where Raffael
was living and teaching. In the fields of literature,
poetry, spirituality and religion, however, it has always
Beauty became suspect in 20th century visual arts. After
Civil Rights/Vietnam/Watergate, Irony raised its head and it
continues look askance at beauty and sincerity.
Talking Beauty found a way to my heart because it rests in a
world I’ve had contact with, though not as much in recent
years. It brought back memories and generated fresh ideas.
I was moved and elevated by this book, as it is the serious
and sweet dialogue all artists crave.
It is uplifting to see in print a conversation of kindness,
compassion, and deep belief in how art amplifies life. Given
the state of male leadership worldwide, Raffael and Pagel
illustrate worthy, alternative paths to lead a life. It is a
handbook for decency.
I received your Talking
Beauty book last night. Finished reading it a few hours
ago. What a fulfilling way to spend a late evening and early
There is literally so much to comment
on I won’t even begin. This email would become an extended
I was moved, enlightened, delighted
and elevated by the conversation you had with Joseph. It is
the serious and sweet dialogue all artists would be honored
to have with you. Clearly you made a lasting impact on
Joseph—and vice versa.
This discussion, the subject matter
and the way you talked about, doesn’t seem to get much
attention in the art circles today. And hasn’t for years.
But it was common in the Bay area in the late 60s and early
70s. Perhaps I may not be reading the right stuff.
In literature, poetry, spiritual and
religious circles it has always be present. I must have 20+
plus books by Wendell Berry. I met in once in SB and got to
take him through our museum. Also had a little letter
correspondence with him in the mid 90s.
Dane Goodman 11/10/2018
I am so happy to include
TALKING BEAUTY in my library of favorite books. There is so
much to think about. It makes me feel I want to express and
live my life with beauty and love and be the person God
created me to be. Some of my favorite area of the book that
are especially meaningful to me are:†The classical poetry
quotes. I love the poem "The Sycamore" by Wendell Berry. It
is, indeed,†a mirror of life: overcoming all sufferings and
surviving. Your love and admiration for Lannis, is felt
throughout the book, and her contribution and thoughts were
much appreciated. And I like the way you ended the book. I
think that is the part I liked best.
TALKING BEAUTY is a treasure. I shall
continue to read this "must have" book, and try to put into
practice what I learn.
Dottie Greene 11/10/2018
I am enchanted with your
book. It is a major book about so many important issues that
it blows my mind. I am still†reading it and even rereading
parts of it. I relate to many of these experiences and the
connections to "Beauty" that are†made in each case. This
book needs to be read by all. A magnificent gift by you and
David Pagel. Did you get my other†comments about it? It is
beautifully written ... and of course it would be. Because
it is the gift of YOU.
Betsy Dillard Stroud
I began reading your book
last night although I tried to wait until today. I couldn't
and read till about two. It is so powerful. Beautifully
poignant and provocative. I read the parts about Matthew and
Lannis's near death experience and what you went through.
Your skills are so eloquent and moving. I reread those
parts. What a great work of art.
Betsy Dillard Stroud
I took Talking Beauty with
me this weekend, and I had an opportunity to just sit on my
own and absorb it all anew. This is such a special, deeply
caring and wondrous book. I find it transporting, for it
gently leads me into a world of deep states of thought and
feelings on this subject of Beauty. Your discourse with
David, as I've†expressed before, is a gift to the reader.
Such wisdom in these pages, both from your own†sensitive,
here-and-now †thoughts as well as from all the†myriad quotes
and poems from all ages.
I really adored reading it! The photos
are beautiful, varied and do enrich the text. I†know that
this inward journey to Beauty that you take me on is one
that I will come back to many times. Really a gem!
Thank you†both for your foresight in
undertaking such a unique book, and for the masterful blend
of both †personal and timeless wisdom gracing it's pages. Do
you have the chance to read it again as well, and perhaps be
soothed by it? Especially as your task in 'birthing' it is
Another question that popped up - have
you ever actually had the chance to meet David by this time?
You must feel awfully close having shared so much of your
lives and feelings together.
This 2am note bursting
forth from me ... Talking Beauty†arrived this
morning ... and after a full day of deep caring for Padi's
dying mother here in our home ... I brought your and David's
conversation with me to bed ... and now ... only to page 45
with tears in my eyes and chest ... and with awe at you two
beautiful men and the BEAUTY that you have created, I had to
write to you in the now of this lovely loving moment.
You can tell David that I fell in love
with Leila between pages 39 and 40 ... what a gift of god
these children are ... yesterday my 6 year old granddaughter
Ella ... sitting on our front porch ... with Padi and her
mom and dad (Nicollette and Eli) ... with her great
grandmother dying in the bed not 10 feet behind her ... say
... apropos of nothing and yet everything ... says, " we are
an expressive family" ... and we are weeping with laughter
... light, love and death's immanent spectre.
I love you Joseph Raffael ... down to
the way your hand is perched around Lannis on the picture on
page 45 ... just like how you hold your brush … so lovingly
in applying the watercolors, your grace is there in every
And David has given me another frame
for those cyclists on our roads up here...I have translated
what I saw as pain in their efforts … into something much
deeper … thank him ... for his gift to all of us...and for
his beautiful lovely family; it makes me love mine even