THE ARTISTIC OBSESSIONS OF WAYNE WHITE AND DIANA VREELAND
Two terrific movies are making the rounds that focus on singular artists that surrendered to the creative muse as a way of life.
BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING
In a terrific Q&Q at Cinemas Palme d’Or in Palm Desert, artist Wayne White said he was always an “outsider.” That is probably true, but his quirky vision has been seen and enjoyed by millions of adults and children in numerous TV shows, but it was especially prominent in Paul Reuben’s PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE in the late 1980s.
On the other hand, many art aficionados and collectors know him only with deserved for his “word art.” For the uninformed, that’s art White paints on already printed, often inexpensive reproductions of obscure but classic-looking paintings. The words he paints are integrated with the light and landscape and often shout a rude or cynical phrase. The “F bomb” is routinely employed.
White, raised in Tennessee, started his career as a cartoonist in New York City. Neil Berkely’s biographical film chronicles the ups and downs of a compulsive artist who never lets go of the urge to create. In fact, White is a kind of slave to the mad muse that dominates his colorful, crazy, whimsical life. Although the film is loosely structures and filled with random riffs and a kaleidoscope of images –- some them crudely transferred from old VHS tapes — there’s no question this ragged documentary is as inspired and inspiring as the insanely creative White.
If there’s a message embedded in White’s art, it may be this: Art need not be meaningful as long as it’s fun. Does it make you stop and look? Does it make you laugh? Does it delight the eye? Does it mock pretense? Does it jolt the senses? Is it silly? Well, White’s art does all the above, but, oddly enough, at no time did I feel “Beauty is Embarrassing” but just the opposite – whatever that is. If you’re an artist or have even a smidgen of a creative urge, see this beautiful film about a kindred spirit. Now playing at Cinema’s Palme d’Or.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL
This fever dream of a personalized portrait of the legendary fashion icon – a big hit at Palm Springs International Film Festival — is coming soon to home theater. Using a multitude of striking media formats that animate graphics and text with voices (including Vreeland’s) and music clips, this exuberant film takes us on an exaggerated journey of Vreeland’s life and passions in a style that reflects the subject herself! It’s hard to get a handle on her personal aesthetic, but there’s no doubting the power of her ability to actualize her private, singular vision. As a fashion editor, Vreeland reigned with an absolute authority that hypnotized those around her. To say nothing of the legions of fans that cheered her bold, badass, brashness.
But in the end, Vreeland’s greatest creation was herself. Even though it’s been nearly 25 years since her passing, she remains a unique influence on the fashion industry and all those who create theatrical costumes and production design, whether they know it or not.
For those who are interested, coffee table books about Wayne White and Diana Vreeland, with the same titles as their biographical films, are available — even though neither are direct movie tie-ins.