Sometimes when I am working in the studio I like to watch Netflix tv shows or movies. I recently watched five art-related movies that were insightful and thought provoking. I can recommend all of them and here is why:
- "Frida" - this Oscar winning film focuses on Frida Kahlo's relationship with her husband, artist Diago Rivera. What I found most compelling about this film was the relationship she had with her art and her insatiable appetite to create art for herself. I learned so much about this incredibly strong and inspirational woman. It's a gorgeous film to boot.
"Miss Potter" (I think I actually watched this one on Amazon). This is a great movie to watch if you have a child (particularly a female child) who is interested in making art. This movie plays out the story of Beatrix Potter, the creator of the beloved children's series of books that include "The Tale of Pater Rabbit" and gave us such characters as Squirrel Nutkin, Miss Tittlemouse, etc... Miss Potter is played by Renee Zellweger, who I think does a beautiful job. I got lost in this film as it reminded me of being a young girl dreaming of being an illustrator and children's book writer as I sketched away in the little studio I had made myself in an empty closet in my bedroom. The gorgeous shots of the Lake District and English countryside were an eye-candy bonus. My husband sat through this movie and seemed to enjoy it - this is my pick for a great family movie night flick.
"Marina Abromovic: The Artist is Present" This film, along with the next two, are documentaries and not necessarily appropriate for young viewers. This film follows the Serbian performance artist, Marina Abramovic as she prepares for her retrospective show at the MOMA in 2010. What struck me about this documentary was how very true it is that the story of why and how an artist makes art truly does "sell" the work. I have long struggled to connect with some of the performance and more avant guard modern art I have seen and always wished I could know more about the "why" motivation of an artist. The insight into this artist's vision and personal story made the experience of her art incredibly moving for me. I grew to admire and adore her. The throngs of people who came to sit with her during her very real and powerful personal installation did as well. It is a powerful insight into the modern art world and the hero-worship it can often create around artists. It's a thought-provoking movie worth watching and paying attention to.
"Wasteland" This film follows revered artist Vik Muniz as he documents the work of Brazilian recyclable materials/trash pickers in the trash dumps of Rio De Janeiro's Jardim Gramacho landfill. This is a gem of a film that sucks you in to a world one could never imagine. The beauty and power of Muniz's vision and the relationship he forges with this inspired and resilient community is something to witness. The lives of all who were involved in this project are changed in ways you just cannot predict when he first begins his project in this ... well, wasteland and with the people who have made it their livelihood and community. This film is a powerful one for preteens and teenagers.
"Cutie and the Boxer" This film was nominated in 2014 for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It focuses on the complicated relationship between married artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. I found their relationship depressing at times as well as endearing in moments. It is a tension-filled marriage between two artists who happened to be married. Much like Frida Kahlo, Noriko Shinohara creates art that is both autobiographical and painful as it maps her struggle to assert her own personal voice. Noriko is belittled by her better-known artist husband. The emotional abuse she endures during their long marriage was hard for me to watch at times. It is a poignant portrait of a woman who is struggling to defend an identity she has long ago lost to her over-bearing and dysfunctional husband. I was reminded by watching the "boxing artist", Ushio, that when you create art for the sole purpose of making money it often falls flat. I watched as he frantically attempted to make images that would sell rather than ones that truly spoke to him. Meanwhile, his wife was quietly and clandestinely creating work that was truth-filled and intensely personal. The contrast between their two creative muses was palpable. This film is worth watching but be prepared to feel a little deflated and frustrated.
Some final thoughts about these films as a group:
I continue to reflect on the woman in these films as a female artist, wife and mother. All of these films gave me a view of woman that helped me better understand myself. I feel inspired by all the woman (both artists and the trash pickers in Wasteland) featured in these films and would welcome discussion about what others felt about them. Please share your thoughts with me and my audience here on the blog!
Be well and enjoy!