A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

What’s art?

Marshall McLuhan (1970s?).  Of course …

I was chatting with the artist Eric Wesselow.  I asked him, “What is art?  He started in on the fact that etymologically, art simply means something that is made.

“Actually,” I told him, “art is what you can get away with.”

He looked somewhat taken aback.  So I asked him, “What is a portrait?  “A portrait,” I said, “is the picture of a person where there is always something wrong with the mouth.”

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  And yet …

I have always found these oddball definitions funny.  And perhaps that’s all they are.  However they also have a ring of truth.  The second calls to mind the most iconoclastic portrait in western culture – the Mona Lisa – the first has crossed the mind of anyone who has ever walked through a gallery of modern art.   At any rate the next time I go to an art gallery, I’m going to find it hard not to think of McLuhan’s definitions.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, Who Was Marshall McLuhan, 1994, p. 222.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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