Pictures and Tears

The entire book. Essay in the Huffington Post. This is a book about people who have had strong emotional reactions to artworks. It tells a history of times and places when strong passions were expected, and contrasts them with the habits of the last hundred years. The book also has letters from people who have […]

On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 4 Chapters 5-7 There is also a video interview. Can contemporary art say anything about spirituality? John Updike calls modern art “a religion assembled from the fragments of our daily life,” but does that mean that contemporary art is spiritual? Why is art that represents major religions, and isn’t critical […]

What Painting Is

The Introduction Chapter 1, “A Short Course in Forgetting Chemistry” Chapter 4, “How To Count in Oil and Stone” Chapter 6, “The Studio as a Kind of Psychosis” The Envoi, “Last Words” This is not a book about paintings, but about the act of painting, and the kinds of thought that are taken to be embedded […]

What Heaven Looks Like

  Huffington Post 1 Huffington Post 2 Huffington Post 3 Huffington Post 4 The essay on emblems What Heaven Looks Like is my favorite trade press book. It is a commentary on a mysterious manuscript in Glasgow, an anonymous booklet of small round watercolor paintings with no captions. What Heaven Looks Like is available on […]

Stories of Art

  Read chapter 1 in pdf format Or buy on Amazon. This short text is an answer to E.H. Gombrich’s worldwide bestseller Story of Art. (The single best-selling art book in any genre.) Stories of Art tells many stories of art, while Gombrich’s tells only one. His story, which has become influential around the world, is […]

What Photography Is

  Read the first third of the book Buy the book on Amazon. What Photography Is was written, in the first instance, against Roland Barthes’s book. I was concerned that even after thirty years, Camera Lucida is still the central (most often cited) source in photography theory. Part of the reason for the longevity of Barthes’s […]

How to Use Your Eyes

  Download the book. Or buy a copy. A nicely designed large-format book with color pictures of common objects that are often overlooked: sand, a twig, the night sky, the inside of your own eye, the sunset, moths’ wings, sand, cracks in the pavement, hieroglyphs, ice halos, fingerprints, crystals, the lines in a face, the […]

Why Art Cannot be Taught

  Chapter 1, Histories Chapter 2, Conversations Chapter 3, Theories Conclusions Buy the book on Amazon. This book got me in some trouble when I first wrote it. There was a public event where I teach, at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago: the Dean and a couple of faculty, including me, were to […]