Bern Porter

Cover of Bern Porter’s THE BOOK OF DO’S (The Dog Ear Press, 1982)

Bern Porter Checklist:

Section A: Books, Chapbooks, and Pamphlets

Bernard Harden “Bern” Porter (1911-2004) was an American artist, writer, publisher, performer, and physicist. In his 93 years on this earth, Porter contributed to some of the most important scientific and artistic innovations of the twentieth century. He worked on the development of the cathode-ray tube (for television), the atomic bomb (with the Manhattan Project), and NASA’s Saturn V Rocket. When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, in 1945, Porter walked away from his position with the Manhattan Project and, disappointed with his work as a physicist, turned his attention to artistic pursuits.

In the aftermath of World War II, a flood of visual information spread across the United States. Advertisements in newspapers and magazines and on billboards and television promised an easier and happier life through the purchasing of products. For his collages, which he dubbed “Founds,” Porter gathered the waste of this new culture—advertisements, junk mail, instruction booklets, scientific documents, and other material—and turned it into art. In addition to his books of Founds, Porter authored treatises on the unification of science and art (what he called “Sciart”) and books of experimental poetry. He published work by major figures in art and literature, such as Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, and Dick Higgins. Also, as the self-proclaimed inventor of mail art, Porter was an active participant in a vast international network of artists who shared their work with each other through the post.

References Consulted:

Schevill, James. Where To Go What To Do When You Are Bern Porter: A Personal Biography
Gardiner: Tilbury House, 1992

Online Resources:

· Colby College – archive
· Getty Research Institute – archive
· MoMA – biography/bibliography
· Tara Odorizzi – biography/bibliography
· UbuWeb – biography/bibliography