ART IS MY MIDDLE NAME

…is a free art newsletter that I started as a birthday gift to myself (it took me exactly 45 years to realize that Art is in fact my middle name). Every week or so, I kick out a short-to-medium thought about art, working with a very broad definition of art: visual arts, comics, movies, music, literature, god knows what else. I cover art appreciation, art history, art theory, making art, all that. Sometimes I focus on individual works of art or artists; sometimes I wander all over the place. I can’t promise structure or high-quality copy-editing, but I can promise fun (and a bare minimum of one post a month, although so far it’s been way more frequent than that). And although I hope this’ll still be fun and interesting for my pals from the world of academic art history, I want to aim this more at people who like to appreciate art and culture but haven’t spent a bunch of time in seminars talking theory.

You can sign up at Substack, or kick over there to browse the archives. Or, to make the browsing easier, I’ll try to keep an index here of past newsletter topics (although be warned that updates to this might be sporadic and not reflect more recent newsletters). Ones with asterisks are particular favorites of mine:

*How Do We Know That Franklin’s Black?

I look at the sometimes-uncomfortable ways that cartoonists communicate Blackness in their character designs.

Decoding a Sneaky Building

Jean Nouvel’s Guthrie Theater is messing with your head in kinda cool ways.

A Different Kind of Bad Memorial

To celebrate emancipation, maybe a Black man cowering at the feet of Abraham Lincoln isn’t the best way to go.

Kara Walker’s Rough Chuckle

Tough truths can be easier to communicate when they’re embedded in cleverness.

*Nudie Can’t Fail

With Nudie Suits, the clothes make the man (or woman) in country music.

*Mucha Do About Something

Alphonse Mucha, the horny genius of Art Nouveau.

*The Principality of Minneapolis

Looking at how a city memorializes its resident genius.

*Churchill: A Portrait of an Old Heap

I use the story of a portrait that Winston Churchill hated (so much that his wife had it burned!) to talk about portraiture in the modern era. And to say some mean things about Churchill.

LOOK UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR

More and more of our art world is digital now, and digital art has a lot of problems for the long haul.

Who ARE We?

Art is narrative, identity is narrative, and guess what: it’s all tangled together.

Trying to Preserve Our Brains

Wherein I recommend making art, even/especially bad art, as a way to keep yourself sane during the coronavirus quarantine.

*A Painting You Certainly Know

Dogs playing poker! And dogs playing pool! And practicing law! Joining the Masons!

Stop Picking on Performance Art

A defense of our least-respected branch of modern art, using Yoko Ono and James Luna as examples of good performance artists.

My Crackpot Theory of the 3 Phases of Cultural Movements

Wherein I drop some junk art history on you. This is strictly “talking a line of shit at parties” stuff here.

All the Marbles

The world’s been waiting for my take on the Elgin Marbles. Finally, the wait is over.

*Midcentury Modern, Shredded

One of my favorites! The design history of the electric guitar, with a special plea to acknowledge Leo Fender as a cultural hero.

Bauhaus / in Der Mitte of our Strasse

The life, death, and long, triumphant afterlife of the Bauhaus.

*Art Report From the Front Lines: Minneapolis Community Ed Pottery

I took a community ed pottery class and, uh, ran into some stuff.

*Museumgoers Gone Wild!

Reports of bad behavior in museums, culled from my own memories and those of other museum people I know.

You Know Who Sucks? Jacques-Louis David

Let us now shit-talk the biggest ass-kisser in all of art history.

Culture From Below in 2020

An impassioned argument for do-it-yourself creativity.

*This Newsletter Has Been Hijacked by East German Punks

I read a (great) book about East German punks and had a lot of thoughts about culture and identity.

The Moral Calculus of Watching Watchmen

When someone gets screwed over as badly as Alan Moore has been, what are the ethics of watching adaptations of their work?

Bluebeard!

I talk about one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novels, which is in turn about abstract expressionist art, and argues that the key to knowing a lot about paintings is to look at a lot of paintings.