Being cool is mostly about posture. It is a way of holding your body. It is a certain expression on your face. It’s the way you handle a cigarette, but not the way you smoke it. Maybe you never even take a puff; you just let the thing dangle in your right hand, smoldering, until it burns out.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

Gayness was invented in America. That’s the thought that slowly formed in my mind while perusing the show “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. I’m not saying that America invented homosexuality, of course. That goes a little further back. What America did was to give gayness its specific difference, to make “gay” into an identity you could have publicly like any other.

“Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” Through February 13, 2011. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

“Hide/Seek” begins its American story, as is appropriate, with Walt Whitman. Walt was, after all, the great bard of American self-invention. If there was a new identity to be tried, Walt was ready to sing its praises. It has been speculated that Whitman had a more than passing interest in… More…

I never imagined a 12-foot tower of orange rubber work gloves could be so sublime. Before walking around the Schipbreuk- en Juttersmuseum on the little Dutch island of Texel, beachcombing meant a shell or two picked up on vacation, something to decorate the bathroom, a sand dollar if I was lucky. The jutters (beachcombers) of Texel have brought the regurgitated goods spat up from the North Sea and built from them a new city of salvation.

 

The Juttersmuseum on Texel is 70 years’ worth of beach-combed curiosities, collected and displayed for the general public. Texel is one of the Frisian islands in the Wadden Sea, meaning Texel can also be described as “remote.” It lies west of the Netherlands, the first island in an archipelago that arcs all the way to Denmark. If you started… More…