Mike Mills: An Artist First, a Director Second

Mike Mills is an artist who makes films. Though he calls himself a graphic designer (he's done album covers for Sonic Youth, among others, created T-shirts and posters galore) he is much too idiosyncratic to be purely commercial. Even as he becomes more established in the mainstream pop-culture-scape -- his second feature-length film, Beginners, opens next week -- he can't help but be the artist first, and a director second. I originally met Mike when he was organizing events at Cooper Union and asked me to speak along with others from the downtown arts scene. I didn't know of his work then, but over the coming years an outpouring of drawings, books, videos,  and a short film commissioned by Andy Spade put him squarely in the tradition of Warhol, where art and commerce lived together harmoniously. With his first film Thumbsucker, it was clear an original artist who was able to take something personal and make it universal had arrived. In Beginners, Ewan McGregor stars as a commercial artist working on a CD for a band called The Sads, which not so coincidentally in real life is an art band made-up of Mills's friends. Mills's drawings appear in the movie and they are being released as a book as well and in a short animation. Beginners also stars Christopher Plummer, a character based on Mills's dad who came out of the closet when he was in his 70s. Having grappled with this jaw-dropping life moment, what will Mills come up with next? Can't wait to find out. He talks about all this here. And on his really cool Beginners blog.

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