"Strange And Beautiful" by Laura Coulman is a visual epoch. Whether or not one is fond of Lady GaGa's music, two key factors cannot be denied: She is quite possibly the most brilliant 21st century visual artist accessible to the people and she uses her mass appeal for the common good. That is, she is and has consistently been a stand for ALL human rights. Remember when Arizona was trying to get over and pass that bullshit SB1070? Lady GaGa had a scheduled tour date in Arizona during the Arizona boycott, which of course upset a few of the wrong people at the time. But what did she do when she got there? She made a compelling speech in support of amnesty and doubled up by shouting down a bunch of bigots on their own turf, which may very well have been more effective than any boycott could have dreamed of being. Well played. We are all of course very familiar with Lady GaGa's consistently awesome support of queer rights.
So why would I mention all this in regards to an illustrated book? Well, there are words too. "Strange And Beautiful" is a photo illustrated biography that touches briefly but meaningfully upon GaGa's early years as a timid catholic schoolgirl and later as an unappreciated performer. Coulman does a wonderful job detailing how exactly GaGa came to realize what I would consider one of life's most important lessons: empathy and thus the ability to translate life experience, make the connection between the many cultures and communities we get to share a planet with. Everyone translates, it's just a matter of putting one's self out there in there world and being fearless enough to do it with one's mind open.
"Strange And Beautiful" might also challenge one's perceptions of fashion. If we are thinking of fashion as superficial crap to be brushed off as such, we might consider old avant guard credos that state how we are not truly ourselves until we are some one else. No matter how contrived that may sound, there is a great deal of truth to it. For all the artifice, GaGa is remarkably genuine. She is provocative and shocking to some, but once she has your attention her words and actions are consistent and meaningful. "Strange And Beautiful" is sectioned off to display GaGa's various thematics and epigrams (many are worthy of the Algonquin Round Table). So of course there is a good deal of imagery displaying her 'space wear' which I found to be remarkably telling. For decades science fiction writers have utilized outer space as a setting where there is just enough removal so that we might discuss difficult topics such as: governments, race, gender, sexuality, etc. and with that removal we have the potential to think more openly about the "other" and in many ways identify as such. We are all "others". Well, I suppose there is no need to go too far "there" in what is supposed to lighter hearted book review, but the connections are very clear and rather remarkable and quite honestly "Strange And Beautiful" has a great deal of depth to it.
All told, I would strongly advise nabbing a copy at one's earliest convenience. The images are stunning, the text is thought provoking and both are inspiring. Cheers to Laura Coulman for a fabulous piece of work.