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The Chesley Awards: A Retrospective
John Grant, Elizabeth Humphrey, and Pamela D. Scoville
Artists and Photographers Press Ltd (AAPPL) hardcover £30

review by Tony Lee

Since 1985, members of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) have voted each year to award the 'Chesleys' - named after space art pioneer Chesley Bonestell - to honour the best genre works in a dozen categories by painters, illustrators and sculptors, and these awards are presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon). This volume, the first of its kind, collects over 300 illustrations by Chesley winners from around the world, and is an effective showcase for excellence in the fields of book and magazine illustrations, unpublished works, gaming and product related art, and outstanding artistic achievements. The book includes biographical notes on all the artists whose work is featured here, listings of all Chesley Award nominations 1985-2002, and a full index.

What's most impressive about this collection is the astounding diversity of styles and subjects, due in part because the Chesley Awards also recognise quality in terms of individual talents who have found their niche or popular artists with successful careers that span many decades, in addition to the imagination and brilliance of single pieces of art. So, we find comics and magazine artist Alex Schomburg honoured in 1987 for a lifetime of fantastic airbrushed pictures while, more recently, an Award of Distinction went to the estate of Chelsey Bonestell in 2000.

As the merits of artwork are largely subjective, here's a few of my favourites chosen - with some difficulty I might add - from the spectacular variety of work in this amazing retro book: James Gurney's spooky pirate is a cutlass-wielding skeleton, complete with a wooden leg! (p.27); Don Maitz' cover for C.J. Cherryh's Hugo-winning novel Cyteen (1989) imaginatively depicts a clone lab with symbolic imagery (p.36); Alan M. Clark's unpublished "Pain Doctors" evokes the darkest hospital-hell and made me shudder (p.93); Michael Dashow's Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche is marvellously absurd with a library-wrecking rhino studying philosophy! (p.122); Donato Giancola's superb Space Odyssey Revisited for a millennial issue of Playboy, is simply one of the best 2001-related illustrations I've ever seen.

Whatever your preference in genre visuals, this is like a Who's Who and a What Picture of the whole extraordinary field of SF and fantasy art.
The Chesley Awards

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