Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Mitch O’Connell-The World’s Best Artist

The PopCult Bookshelf 

Mitch O’Connell-The World’s Best Artist
by Mitch O’Connell
Last Gasp
ISBN 978-086719-773-0
$35.00

I have to start this review off with a disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Mitch O’Connell. We palled around a bit at a couple of comic book conventions in the 1980s, when I was editing CODA, and we reconnected years later via MySpace and became online buddies. Mitch was the first guest artist featured in Monday Morning Art here in PopCult, and I have paid real cash money for his artwork. Plus he has the decency to be slightly older than I am.

So this is going to be a very complimentary review.

Mitch O’Connell-The World’s Best Artist by Mitch O’Connell, is an amazing collection of Mitch’s work over the course of his entire life. It’s an astounding package, bringing the gigantic body of work of the master of pop-culture kitsch together in one huge 288-page package.

It is an impressive package. The cover, featuring a big-eyed crying clown girl holding a flower, surrounded by floating, laughing clown heads, is printed on puffy vinyl, with glitter. If that doesn’t scream “fine art” then I don’t know what does.

This collection spans O’Connell’s entire life, all in glorious full color. It begins with his birth pictures, and continues with his childhood art, an assortment of his comics fanzine work, his student work and tears into his comic book, advertising, tattoo and fine art.

The copy is all written by O’Connell in the same hilarious mock-arrogant, yet self-depricating style that he employs so well in his blog and on Facebook. It’s engrossing, entertaining and light-hearted.

That is, until you get to an essay in the chapter devoted to his art exhibitions titled “Keeping My Head.” In this essay O’Connell details the dissolution of his marriage, keeping the sordid details to a minimum to protect his children, but letting us know enough about what happened that his art from his “God Has Forgivien Me” exhibit takes on a new, gut-wrenching meaning. The intensely personal collages that follow, many sprinkled with quotes from love letters and songs his wife wrote to her new lover, show a man working through a painful betrayal with his art. This is powerful stuff.

This section is followed by a chapter on O’Connell’s tattoo art and his association with the late Tura Satana, of “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” fame. The light-hearted fun tone returns in full, just in time for a tour of his house, which is filled with tons of cool flea-market finds and works of art.

Kudos go to graphic designer, Joe Black, who assembled O’Connell’s life’s work into such a spectacular coffee-table kitsch book.

It’s hard to pigeon-hole Mitch O’Connell’s work. He’s run the gamut from low-brow to high-brow, and has been right at home no matter what he does. He is a man who straddles many brows. You’ve seen his work on covers for Newsweek, and illustrations for Rolling Stone, Playboy, The Village Voice and dozens of other magazines. He’s done clip art that’s been used around the world. O’Connell has drawn CD covers for Supersuckers, Less Than Jake, the Malamondos and tons of other groups. Plus he’s done flyers for Burlesque Shows, movie festivals, bands, theatrical productions and roller derby.

Mitch O’Connell is, truly, the world’s best artist. You will learn in this book that he is also a devoted son, a great dad, and quite the raconteur. He raconts the bejesus outta this stuff.

Mitch O’Connell-The World’s Best Artist by Mitch O’Connell is what you might get if an Archie McPhee catalog and a fine art book had a baby. You know you want it.

All the artwork in this post is by Mitch, and is included in the book.

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Now that you’re all art-excited up, don’t forget that Thursday night, it’s the first Downtown Charleston ArtWalk of 2013. All the galleries will be showing off brand-new shiny works by area artists, and free-flowing wine will make sure that potential patrons of the arts are liquored up enough to pry open their wallets. it kicks off at 5 PM. Check the website for more info.

1 Comment

  1. Mitch O'Connell

    WOW!
    I had no idea I was so wonderful (well, I had a slight inkling, but I didn’t want to say anything)!
    Thanks!!!!

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