Proposal for Arts & Artists in America

This 500,000-word project would be a stylish biographical and historical dictionary with extended entries on the most important subjects and most important artists in all fields--music, literature, visual art, performing arts--primarily in America from its beginnings. The introduction would identify characteristics of “The American Imagination” that makes American art generally different from European. The secondary theme is that these individuals and activities constitute the American canon and that knowledge of their achievements is essential literacy.

The entries would be generally appreciative and at once introductory and scholarly, as we’ve done before, concluding with short bibliography of both primary and secondary references. While this reference book is destined ultimately for libraries, we hope that the writing would be clean enough for the text to become a trade book, probably without the documentation, perhaps with a book club. Consider three lengths: 10,000 words apiece for subjects marked A; 5,000 words apiece for subjects marked B; 2,000 words apiece for subjects marked C.

Since doing my graduate work in American history on artists in America, I have thought about these individuals for four decades, I expect to write much of this book myself, sometimes in collaboration for Tony Coulter and Doug Puchowski, both of whom worked with me on the revised edition of my Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (1999). Those subjects that others can do better would be assigned by me and delivered to me, who has edited anthologies of fresh criticism before. Names of possible contributors appear below after the letters designating projected length. (RK is myself.) Though individuals and subjects will be treated alphabetically, the book should also have chronological timelines. One departure is that ALL names mentioned in the book, but not given an individual entry, will receive at least two lines of identification is a biographical index, mostly by Douglas Puchowski.

Among the artists probably deserving individual entries, consider the following:

Adams, Ansel, a major photographer: C, A. D. Coleman
Adams, Henry, historian of myth: C, RK
Advertising Art, A
Aircraft Design, C
Alcott, Louisa May, 19th-century novelist: C, Jane P. Bowers
Album (Record) Cover Art, a design art rarely acknoweldged: B, T Coulter
Allbee, Edward, late 20th-century playwright: C
Allen, Fred, a comedian, one of the greatest radio artists: C, RK
Allen, Woody, a filmmaker and short-story writer: C
Allston, Washington, 19th-century painter: C
Amazons (not just body-builders), aesthetically impressive superwomen: C
American Academy of Arts & Letters: C: RK
Amusement Parks: B,
Anger, Kenneth, a prominent non-Hollywood filmmaker and author: C
Animated Film: B, RK
Anthiel, George, an eccentric composer and writer: C, Guy Livingston
Arbus, Diane, a legendary photographer: C,
Architecture: A
The Armory Show: B, RK
Armstrong, Louis, the principal innovator in mid-20th cent. jazz: B, Marc Tucker
Arrowheads, C
Art Deco: C
Ashbery, John, a prominent poet from late 20th cent.: B, RK
Ashcan School, which identifies early 20th cent. painters: C
Astaire, Fred, the greatest film dancer: C, RK
Audubon, John J., a painter born in Haiti drawings of American birds remain classic: C, Avis Berman
Automobile Design, C
Avery, Fred “Tex, ” the cartoon animator: C, RK
Ayler, Albert, innovative jazz master of the 1960s: C, RK
Ballet (American): B, George Doris
Babbitt, Milton, Princeton-based composer & teacher: C, RK
Baez, Joan, folksinger: C, Richard Carlin
Baird, Bill, puppeteer: C
Baker, Josephine, African-American dancer and singer who became a French celebrity before WWII: C
Balanchine, George, a Russian-born choreographer who long headed the principal American ballet company: B
Baldwin, James, an African-American novelist and essayist: C
Ballads: B
Ballroom Dancing: C
Bambaataa, Afrika, a “rap” music pioneer: C
Banjo, C: Richard Carlin
Banjo Makers: C, Jim Bollman
Barbershop Quartets: C
Barlow, Joel, writer and diplomat in late 18th cent.: C
Barnes, Djuna, avant-garde novelist who lived in Paris and Greenwich Village: C
Barnum, P.T.: C, RK
Barth, John, author of big novels in 1960s: B, RK
Barthelme, Donald, influential writer in shorter forms, particularly in The New Yorker: C, RK
Basie, Count, pianist and leader of big bands: C
Beach, Amy, a woman composer from early 20th cent. whose work has won greater recognition posthumously: C
Beach Boys, early West Coast rock group: C, Coulter
Bearden, Romaire, African-American painter and collagist: C, Avis Berman
Beats, am B: John Tytell
Beefheart, Captain; C, T. Coulter
Bellamy, Edward, whose Looking Backward (1888) is a monumental utopian novel: C
Bellow, Saul, a Nobel-prize-winning novelist: C, RK
Bellows, George Wesley, a painter credited with reviving the art of illustration in early 20th cent.: C, Avis Berman
Benny, Jack, by common consent the greatest radio comedian: C, RK
Berlin, Irving, the most successful writer of American popular songs (though Russian-born): B, Phil Furia
Bernstein, Leonard: B-C, Joseph Darby
Biederbecke, Bix:C, Phil Schaap
Bierce, Ambrose, a storyteller and aphorist from the turn of the century: C, RK
Bierstadt, Albert, a German-born painter commonly associated with the Hudson River School C:
Billings, William: C, Carol Oja
Bingham, George Caleb: C
Blake, Eubie: C, David Jasen
Bloch, Ernst: C,
Bluegrass, C, Richard Carlin
Blues, Country: B, Stephen Cait
Blues, Urban: B, RK
Boat Design: C,
Book Cover Art, B
Bop: C, Richard Carlin
Borglum, Gutzon: C
Bowles, Paul: C, RK
Bradstreet, Ann: C
Brady, Matthew, C:
Brakhage, Stan, C
Brant, Henry: C
Brass Bands: C,
Brautigan, Richard: C, T. Coulter
Braxton, Anthony: C
Breakdancing, C, Lee Ellen Friedland
Brown, Charles Brockden: C
Bruce, Lenny: C,
Bryant, William Cullen: C
Buck, Pearl: C
Bukowski, Charles: C
Burlesque: C
Burroughs, William: C
Cage, John: A, RK
Capra, Frank: C
Carr, Benjamin: C
Carter, Elliott, B, RK
Cartoons: B, Les Daniels
Cash, Johnny: C, Colin Escott
Cassat, Mary: C, Avis Berman
Cather, Willa: C,
Calder, Alexander (& his father): B, RK
Chadwick, George Whitefield: C
Chandler, Raymond: C
Chaplin, Charles, B,
Chapman, John Jay: C
Children’s Art: B, T. Coulter
Children’s Literature, B: Jonathan Cott
Chopin, Kate: C
Church Music, B
Circus, B
Classical Music, A, RK
Clocks: C
Coins, C
Coleman, Ornette, a jazz master: C
Coltrane, John, another jazz master: B, John Rocco
Comedy, A, RK
Comic Books: B,
Computer-Assisted Art: B
Conceptual Art, which is a 1970s term for artworks whose idea has more esthetic resonance than the realization; B, RK
Conner, Bruce: C
Cooper, James Fenimore: C
Copland, Aaron, perhaps the most prominent 20th century composer: A
Coppola, Francis Ford, Hollywood filmmaker more serious than most: C
Cornell, Joseph: C, T. Coulter
Costume Design: C
Country Music: B
Cowell, Henry, influential early 20th centyr composer: C, T. Coulter
Crane, Stephen, Civil War novelist who died young: C, Eric Miles Williamson
Crane, Hart: B, Samuel R. Delany
Crawford (Seeger), Ruth, probably the most prominent woman composer of the early 20th cent.: C
Crumb, R., the great “underground” cartoonist: C, T. Coulter
Cummings, E. E., the greatest experimental poet: C, RK
Cunningham, Merce, the premier older contemporary choreographer: B, David Vaughan
Currier & Ives: C
Dada (American), an art movement with origins in Europe: C, RK
Daguerretype, a kind of early photography prominent in 19th cent.: C
Davis, Miles, a jazz master: B
De Kooning, Willem, the most influential painter in mid-century: B, RK
De Mille, C. B., a pioneering Hollywood filmmaker: C
Deren, Maya, the pioneering anti-Hollywood filmmaker: C,
Dectective Fiction/Mysteries; B
Dickinson, Emily, the principal 19th cent woman poet: C, Rochelle Ratner
Disney, Walt, the most successful film animator: B, RK
Dolls (Barbie, et al), C:
The Doors: C, John Rocco
Dos Passos, John, : C, RK
Dozens, a folk poetic form popular among African-Americans: C, Roger Abrahams
Drama: A, Jonathan Kalb
Dreiser, Theodore, a naturalistic novelist from the beginnings of the 20th Cent.: C, RK
Documentary Film: B, RK
Dueling, a dangerous choreographic art: C
Duncan, Isadora: C, Richard Carlin
Dunlap, William, playwright & painter in early 19th century: C
Dunne, Finley Peter, a 19th century political humorist: C
Dylan, Bob: C, Richard Carlin
Eakins, Thomas, among the great painters at the turn of the century: C, Avis Berman
Eames, Charles & Rae, adventurous designers and filmmakers who customarily signed both their names to their work: B
Earl, Ralph, 18th century painter: C
Edwards, Jonathan, colonial preacher whose also wrote: C
Electronic Music: B, Tony Coulter
Eliot, T.S., an influential poet from St. Louis who went to live in England: B, RK
Ellington, Duke, the master of jazz big bands: B, James Edward Hasse
Ellison, Ralph, an African-American novelist whose single novel Invisible Man is remembered among the greatest: B, RK
Emerson, Ralph Waldo:, B,
Environmental Art: C
Etiquette/Table Manners: C, Elizabeth Aldrich
Essays: B, RK
Evans, Oliver, C
Evans, Walker: C, William Stott
Expatriates: B
Exploitation Cinema/Midnight Movies: B
Fashion: B
Faulkner, William: B, RK
Feldman, Morton: C
Fiction, A, Jerome Klinkowitz
Fields, W. C.: C
Film: A, Andrew Sarris
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: B
Flags: C,
Fleischer, Max & Dave: C
Folk (Music): B, Richard Carlin
Footware: C,
Ford, John: C
Foreman, Richard: C
Foster, Stephen: C:
Franklin, Ben, C:
French, Daniel Chester: C,
Frost, Robert: B
Fuller, Buckminster: B, RK
Fuller, Loie: C, RK
Fuller, Margaret: C
Gardens: B, Magdalena Salvesen
Gass, William: C. NOT R.K.
Gershwin, George: B
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: C
Ginsberg, Allen: B, John Tytell
Glass, Philip: C, RK
Goldberg, Rube: C
Gottschalf, Louis Moreau: C
Graham, Martha: B, Don McDonagh
Graphic Design: B, Steve Heller
Grateful Dead, a rock group that performed widely for a long time: B
Greenwich Village, a magnet for important artists in the early 20th cent.: C, RK
Griffes, Charles Tomlinson: C, T Coulter
Griffith, D. W.: C, RK
Guthrie, Woody: C, Richard Carlin
Gymnastics: C
Hair Styles: C
Harrison, Lou, a Calfirornia composer now in his 80s: C, RK
Harte, Bret: C
Hartley, Hal, ???: C
Hassam, Childe, a prominent painter & etcher: C
Hawthorne, Nathaniel: B
Heinlein, Robert: C
Hemingway, Ernest: B, RK
Hendrix, Jimi: B, John Rocco
Herrmann, Bernard: C, T. Coulter
Hip Hop, C
Holography: C, RK
Holly, Buddy, a revolutionary pop musician who died youngllll: C
Homer, Winslow: C, Avis Berman
Hopkinson, Francis, a writer and musician in the 18th cent.: C
Houdini, Harry, the most famous magician: C
Hudson River School, C, RK
Hughes, Langston: C, RK
Hurston, Zora Neal: C
Hymns: C
Ice Skating: C:
Igloo: C-
Illustrations: C
Industrial Design: B
Interior Design: B
Internet: B
Irving, Washington: C, Kenneth Bernard
Ives, Charles: A, RK
King, B. B.: C, RK
Klein, Calvin, C
Kline, Franz, C
Knitting: C
Koch, Kenneth: C, RK
Kovacs, Ernie: C, RK
James, Henry: B, John Tytell
Jazz, A:
Jeffers, Robinson: C, RK
Johns, Jasper: C, RK
Johnson, James Weldon: B, RK
Johnson, Robert: C, Richard Carlin
Johnson, Sara East, C, RK
Jones, Chuck: C, RK
Joplin, Scott: B, David Jasen
Journalism: B
Jump Rope (including Double Dutch), C
Kachina Masks, C
Keaton, Buster: C
Kerouac, Jack: B, John Tytell
Kinetic Art, B, RK
King, B. B., blues singer: C, RK
Kubrick, Stanley, filmmakerB, RK
Lanier, Sydney, 19th-cent. poet: C
Languages Other Than English (Written in America), B, Charles Doria
Lapidus, Morris, architect especially in Miami Beach: C,
Las Vegas, a vibrant city that is incidentally a work of art, C, RK
LaVoe, Hector: C, Julio Marzan
Lewis, Sinclair: C, RK
Living Theatre, avant-garde performance group: B, John Tytell
Lincoln, Abraham (as a writer): C
Lindsay, Vachel, poet: C, RK
Literary Journals, B: RK
Little Richard, pop singer: C
Lloyd, Harold, filmmaker: C
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, poet: B
Lovecraft, H.P., the greatest horror writer: C, S. T. Joshi
Lowell, Amy, poet: C,
Lowell, James Russell, poet: C
Lowry, Raymond, designer: C
Lynch, David, filmmaker: C
MacDowell, Edward, composer: C,
Machito (Frank Grillo), Cuban-American singer & bandleader: C
Mail Art: C, RK
Mailer, Norman, novelist & essayist: C, Ned Polsky
Malamud, Bernard, novelist: C
Man Ray, photographer & visual artist: C, RK
Mapplethorpe, Robert, photographer: C
Marching Bands (black college): C, Jacqui Malone
The Marx Brothers: B, RK
Mather, Cotton, Puritan writer: C,
McCullers, Carson, fiction writer: C
Melville, Herman: A,
Mencken, H. L., artful essayist: B, R. W. Bradford
Mencken, Adah, 19th cent. actress: C,
Merrill, Stuart, 19th-cent. poet: C, Edward Foster
Merry-Go-Rounds: C
Merton, Thomas: C, RK
Miller, Henry, memorist: C, RK
Minstrel Shows: C
Modern Dance (American): B, Don McDonagh
Modern Music, a great arts journal: C, RK
Moholy-Nagy, L., immigrant artist, writer, & educator: C, RK
Monroe, Bill: C, R. Carlin
Monk, Thelonious, jazz musician: C
Morris, Errol: C
Morris, Robert: C
Morse, Samuel F. B.: C, Avis Berman
Motherwell, Robert: C
Museum of Modern Art: B, RK
Musical Instruments, B, Richard Carlin
Musical Theater: B, Kurt Ganzl
Muybridge, Edwaerd: C, RK
Nabokov, Vladimir: B, RK
Nancarrow, Conlon: C, Tony Coulter
Nash, Ogden: C, RK
National Endowment for Arts: C
Native-American Arts: A
Needlepoint: C
Neon: C
New York City: A, RK
Nikolais, Alwin: C, RK
Noguchi, Isamu: C, M.D. Cohen
O’Hara, Frank: C, RK
O’Keeffe, Georgia: C, Avis Berman
O’Neill, Eugene: C, Jonathan Kalb
Olmsted, Frederick Law: C
Opera: B,
Outsider Art: B
Painting: A, Avis Berman
Palés Matos, Luis: C
Parker, Charlie: B, Phil Schaap
Parker, Horatio: C
Partch, Harry: C, T Coulter
Patten, Charlie: C, Stephen Calt
Peale, Charles Wilson, with other Peales: C, Avis Berman
Performance: B, RK
Perkins, Carl: C, Colin Escott
Photography: B, Daile Kaplan
Pinball Machines, C; D. Puchowski
Plath, Sylvia: C, Rochelle Ratner
Poe, Edgar Allan: B, RK
Poetry: A, RK
Polaroid (Instant Photography): C
Polyartistry: B, RK
Pollock, Jackson: B, B.H. Friedman
Pop Art: B, RK
Popular Music: A, Richard Carlin
Pornography: B
Porter, William Sidney (O. Henry): C
Pound, Ezra: B, RK
Powers, Hiram: C
Public Art (including murals): B,
Pulp Fiction: C
Punk Rock: C, John Rocco
Puppetry: C
Presley, Elvis: B, Colin Escott
Pryor, Richard: C, RK
Psychedelia: B, T. Coulter
Pynchon, Thomas: C
Quilting: C
Ra, Sun: C, John Rocco
Radio: B, RK
Rap: C
Rauschenberg, Robert: C, RK
Reich, Steve: C
Reinhardt, Ad: C, RK
Remington, Frederic: C
Residents: C, T Coulter
Rhoads, George: C, RK
Rexroth, Kenneth: C, RK
Riley, Terry: C
Rivera, Ishmael, Puerto Rican composer/performer in mid-20th century: C, Julio Marzan
Robinson, E. A., poet: C
Rock & Roll: B,
Roethke, Theodore, poet: C, RK
Rogers, Will, comedian: C,
Roosevelt, Theodore, president who was also an important writer: C
Roth, Henry, novelist from 1930s: C
Roth, Philip, novelist: C, RK
Ruggles, Carl, composer: C, RK
Ryder, Albert Pinkham, painter: B
Saint-Gaudens, August, sculptor: C
Salinger, J. D., novelist: C, Richard Carlin
San Francisco Bay Bridge: C
Sandburg, Carl, poet and popular historian: C, RK
Sargent, John Singer, painter: C
Saroyan, William, fiction writer & playwright: C, Edward Foster
Satire: B
Schoenberg, Arnold: C, RK
Schultz, Charles, C
Science Fiction: B,
Sculpture: B, M.D. Cohen
Seeger, Pete, folksinger & propagandist: C
Sessions, Roger: C, RK
Shahn, Ben, C, RK
Shaker Arts: B
Shape-Note Singing: C
Shepard, Sam: C
Simon, Paul: C
Sinatra, Frank: C, John Rockwell
Singer, Isaac Bashevis: C,
Skyscrapers: B,
Slam Dunk: C, RK
Slim, Iceberg, blues singer: C, Richard Carlin
Smith, Bessie: C
Smith, David: B, M.D. Cohen
Smth, Harry, filmmaker & archivist: C, R. Carlin
SoHo: C, RK
Soul Music: B, Rob Bowman
Sound Poetry: B, RK
Snyder, Gary, poet and publicist: C
Sousa, John Phillip, C
Square Dancing: C, Lee Ellen Friedland
Spectacle, from the Boston Tea Party to Bread & Puppet Theater, C
Spirituals: C
Sports Stadiums: C
Stage Design: C,
Stained Glass: C, RK
Steichen, Edward, photographer and photography curator: B,
Stein, Gertrude, experimental writer: B, RK
Steinback, John, novelist: C,
Stevens, Wallace, poet: C, Ron Sukenick
Stieglitz, Alfred, photographer: C, A. D. Coleman
Stokowski, Leopold, orchestral conductor: C
Stowe, Harriet Beecher: Jane P. Bowers
Strayhorn, Billy, composer working with Duke Ellington: C
Streb, Elizabeth, choreographer: C
Stroheim, Eric von, filmmaker: C,
Stuart, Gilbert, filmmaker: C, Avis Berman
Styron, William, novelist: C, RK
Sullivan, Louis H., architect: C,
Sully, Thomas (especially if we illustrate): C
Surrealism (American): C, RK
Tanner, Henry: C
Tap Dancing: C, RK
Teepees: C-
Television: A
Theater: C
Thomas, Theodore: C
Thomson, Virgil, composer & music writer: C, RK
Thoreau, Henry David, essayist: A, Kenneth Bernard
Thurber, James: C
Tiffany, Louis Comfort: C, RK
Times Square: C, RK
Toomer, Jean: C, RK
Toys & Games: B
Transcendentalism: C
Trollope, Frances, 19th century travel writer: C
Tuckerman, Frederick Goddard, poet: C, Edward Foster
Turrell, James, visual artist: C, RK
Tuskegee Institute Choir: C
Twain, Mark, needs no introduction: A, RK
Tyler, Royal, 19th cent. playwright: C
Typography: C
Underground Comics: B,
Updike, John: C
Valens, Ritchie, pop singer associated with Buddy Holly: C
Van Vechten, Carl, novelist, arts critic, photographer: C
Vaudeville: B
Varèse, Edgar, composer: C, RK
Velvet Underground, C, John Rocco
Ventriloquism: C
Video Games & Art: C
Vidor, King, filmmaker: C
Visual Poetry: B, RK
Vollman, William, novelist new in the 1980s: C
Walker, T. Bone, blues singer: C
Warhol, Andy: B
Waters, John: C
Waters, Muddy: C
Weber & Fields, C
Weegee: C, RK
Welles, Orson: B, RK
West, Benjamin: C
West, Mae: C
West, Nathanael, a satirist whose influential works reflected surrealism: C, RK
Wharton, Edith: B
Whistler, James McNeill: C, Avis Berman
White, E. B., essayist epitomizing The New Yorker where he worked for years: C,
Whitman, Walt, a 19th cent. poet whose reputation gained over the years: B, Donald Hall
Whittier, John Greenleaf: C
Williams, Hank, a country-music singer: C, Richard Carlin
Williams, Tennessee, the most prominent playwright of the 1940s & 1950s: C, Jonathan Kalb
Williams, William Carlos, a poet, fictioner, and critic who worked fulltime as a neighborhood physician: C, Richard Carlin
Wills, Bob: C
Wilson, Edmund, the epitome of the modern man-of-letters: C
Wilson, Robert, an incomparable extravagant theater director: C, RK
Window Displays: C
Winters, Jonathan, an influential comedian: C
Wiseman, Frederick, a prolific documentary filmmaker: C, RK
Word Games: C, David Morice
WPA: C
Wolfe, Thomas, author of several autobiographical novels in 1920s and 30s: C
Wolfe, Tom, a contrarian essayist and social critic: C, RK
Woolman, John, a Quaker minister who was a distinguished essayist in 18th cent.: C
Wright, Frank Lloyd, the most visible architect of the early 20th century: B,
Wright, Richard, African-American novelist once more influential: C, RK
Wynette, Tammy, country-music singer: C, Richard Carlin
Wyeth, Andrew, popular realistic painter: C
Young, La Monte, avant-garde composer: C, RK
Zappa, Frank, musically sophisticated rock bandleader: C, John Rocco
Zines, which is a recent terms for special interest journals of limited circulation: C
Zydeco, a folkpop music indigenous to New Orleans: C

We welcome suggestions for other major American artists and subjects meriting similar treatment.