Camille Paglia Calls George Lucas ‘World’s Greatest Living Artist’


Wow. I mean, wow. Who knew that famed social critic and “dissident feminist” Camille Paglia was a huge Star Wars fan? Paglia, author of several books including the widely-cited and highly controversial Sexual Personae, has devoted an entire chapter to Lucas’ Revenge of the Sith in her latest book Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars. She compares Lucas’ work to some of art history’s greats and calls his lack of recognition from the art establishment “absolutely scandalous.” Read more in the press release below. (The emphasis is mine):

In her sixth book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars (going onsale October 16), best-selling author and culture critic Camille Paglia hails film director and digital pioneer George Lucas as the greatest living artist in any field in the world.

Paglia says, “Only Bob Dylan has had anywhere near the global impact of George Lucas. But Dylan’s revolutionary work was done in the 1960s—40 years ago. As shown by Revenge of the Sith, which was released in 2005, Lucas is still doing major work of the highest artistic quality.”

Paglia spent five years writing Glittering Images, which has 29 beautifully illustrated chapters crossing 3000 years and which concisely describes the most important styles in the history of art. It’s the first book ever to place George Lucas in the direct line of great artists such as Titian, Bernini, Monet, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. Paglia’s chapter on Lucas, which surveys his career and analyzes Revenge of the Sith, is the final chapter and climax of the book.

She says, “I was shocked to discover during my research how few serious books there are about Lucas in many university and college libraries, even the ones with collections of film studies. Lucas has been outrageously marginalized—he’s often dismissed as a creator of blockbuster entertainments for children. Also, he’s a very private person who avoids the Hollywood scene. Like any true artist, he doesn’t care about glitz and show—he just focuses on his work.”

Paglia found evidence in many scattered and obscure sources about Lucas’ lifelong orientation as a visual artist. She says, “It’s absolutely scandalous that the art world and art critics have failed to recognize Lucas’ importance and influence as a visual master as well as the creator of a vast mythology that has entranced millions of people for several generations around the world.”

In the introduction to Glittering Images, Paglia writes: “Nothing I saw in the visual arts of the past thirty years was as daring, beautiful, and emotionally compelling as the spectacular volcano-planet climax of Lucas’s Revenge of the Sith.” By permission of Lucasfilm, she reproduces three images from the film in her book: the mountainous lava landscape of Mustafar; the mineral-collection arms of the Mustafar factory; and the raft duel in the lava river between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Paglia documents the long technical process of shooting all aspects of the Mustafar episode. She details the complex miniature set that was created of the Mustafar landscape and calls it “a collaborative triumph of modern installation art”. She compares Lucas’ deft cross-cutting (to the destruction of the Great Rotunda of the Galactic Senate on Coruscant) as equivalent to J.M.W. Turner’s eyewitness epic painting of the catastrophic burning of the British Houses of Parliament in 1834.

Paglia’s book ends by hailing Lucas “a man of machines yet a lover of nature . . . one of the most powerful and tenacious minds in contemporary culture”.

Camille Paglia is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is the author of Break, Blow, Burn; Sexual Personae; Sex, Art, and American Culture; and Vamps & Tramps. She has also written The Birds, a study of Alfred Hitchcock.