“I don’t work very hard at making perfect works of art. I’m not very keen on being the best or making perfect things. I often wait until I’m under the weather, ill, tired or hung over to make things. Making art is like making other things in life, it depends on your mood, your state of mind. You make good things and everything in between. But even then, when I try to create in this state of mind, my upbringing makes itself felt and I end up writing or painting well. It shows that I haven’t managed to break loose from my youth. I’m afraid of showing the truth. I’m still a slave to something. We are all slaves to something.”—Dieter Roth, 1976

Dieter Roth was a fighter; his personal life was filled with torment and fear. His art, which included painting, film, graphic design, poetry and artist’s books, was consistently evocative of his obsessions. Reading about the lives of artists is often mesmerizing, not only from the angle of peering into their creative process, but also because it allows us to observe the mayhem that ruled their lives. Whether this chaos is caused by alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, murder or war, the fact that these individuals are able to create something so beautiful from such unpleasant circumstances makes it all that much more captivating. Perhaps art-making provided a hint of hope out of their horrid reality. Whatever the reasons, the lives of visual artists frequently make great stories. The following 10 books are a must for anyone’s summer reading list.

I.A. Freeman

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