Edited by Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner

Underwood Books


176pp/$27.00/December 2002

Spectrum 9
Cover by Daniel R. Horne

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The ninth annual collection of fantastic artwork by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, Spectrum 9 suffers from many of the same weaknesses as the earlier books in the sequence, while embracing the strengths the series has consistently shown.  The book contains a retrospective of science fiction and fantasy art from 2001, divided into several categories.  Run as a contest, Spectrum 9 allows viewers to see artwork which they may have otherwise missed, drawing, as it does, from a variety of sources.

A short introduction by editor Cathy Fenner provides some information about how the categories are divided by looking at some of the types of works which appeared in each category during the judging period.  However, Fenner allows comments on current events to inundate this explanatory information, which tends to lessen its effectiveness either as editorial about art or explanation of the contest.

Only two pages are devoted to this year’s Grand Master, Kuniko Craft.  The first page is a brief biography of the artist and the second is a reproduction of one of her paintings.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow the reader to fully understand Craft’s range as an artist or why she should be selected over other artists.  Two additional paintings by Craft later in the book help to provide some of the action, but as the Grand Master, it would have been nice to be able to see more of a gallery of her art.

The reproduction of paintings and sculpture throughout the book is well done, although often smaller than would be preferable.  Similarly, the book does not include any detail reproductions of the works included.  Despite this, the artwork is shown clearly, often more brilliantly and more completely than would be depicted on, for instance, a book cover.  The pictures also lack the text which often covers portions of a painting when it is used for commercial purposes.

The editors have clearly noted not only the names of the individual artists, but also the titles of the work and the medium used.  For the book covers, this frequently, but not always, indicates the title of the book the cover graced.  Similarly, the institutional works often indicate the brands or product they were originally meant to help sell.  One of the more interesting of the institutional pieces of art is a collection of three preliminary sketches for characters in the animated film “Ice Age” by Peter de Séve.

Some questions do arise concerning the selection process.  The Spectrum series is supported by the annual contest it runs.  The reader may be forgiven for wondering if the artwork included is actually the “best in contemporary fantastic art” as the book’s subtitle promises, the best of the art that was submitted to the contest, or simply the art that was submitted to the contest.  Similarly, if one of the unpublished pieces is sold, is it possible that it will again be entered in the contest, perhaps appearing in one of the other sections in a future volume of the Spectrum series.

Minor questions about the book aside, Spectrum 9 provides its readers with the opportunity to view much of the fantastic art of 2001 without resorting to buying individual books or saving advertising.  The pictures are clear and bright, allowing the reader to fully appreciate the artist’s work and, perhaps, discover new artists to be on the lookout for.

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