Two new books explore art in Virginia 

Virginia is for Art Lovers

Judging from two recent books, Virginia isn't just for lovers — it's for art lovers. First, "Art of the State Virginia" by K.M. Kostyal (Abrams, $12.95), celebrates the state's beauty in many forms — artistic, cultural and physical. The slim square volume, one of a series that aims to capture the spirit of each state, opens with a painting by Richmond artist Javier Tapia who teaches at VCU, "where many of the state's leading artists have trained over the years."

The little book serves as a sort of primer for those visiting the state for the first time. For Virginia residents, it is a quick reminder of Virginia's great cultural resources. Not surprisingly, the book contains a wealth of information about Virginia history, including numerous reproductions of historical paintings and drawings culled from the collections of the state's museums and cultural institutions.

There's a short list of films shot in Richmond in the '90s, a listing of native Virginian arts luminaries — among them Nell Blaine, Shirley MacLaine, William Styron and Sally Mann — a calendar of perennial events and a listing of museums, attractions, gardens and other arts resources.

"The American Art Book," (Phaidon, $39.95) is an ambitious compilation of the art of 500 artists that have defined American history and culture, from photographer Berenice Abbott to sculptor William Zorach. Included in the large-format, full-color coffee-table book are numerous works owned by Virginia museums — The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Hampton University Museum, Valentine Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg — squarely placing our state on this country's cultural map. The book is written by a former Richmonder, Jay Tobler, and Margo Crutchfield, the Virginia Museum's associate curator of art after 1900, served as a consultant for the book. Crutchfield is delighted that seven pieces from the museum's collection are included. "It's wonderful visibility nationwide for our collection which is truly outstanding," she

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