Saturday, February 8, 2014

Neil Berkeley's BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING gives us conceptual artist Wayne White (and company)

Boy, there are just so many interesting people out there in the world -- many of whom, unless you follow things such as art and children's TV shows, can get right by you. Such a person, a fellow named Wayne White, has managed to get by TrustMovies all these years, even though TM was quite a fan of both White's wife, Mimi Pond, when she was a budding and then quite successful cartoonist maybe 30 years ago, and of Pee-Wee's Playhouse (for which White won Emmy awards for production design and puppetry) and its movie spin-offs.

From the looks of the recent documentary, BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING, now streaming on Netflix, Mr. White and his recent art endeavors have quite a fan base, and so the filmmaker Neil Berkeley (shown at right) who directed and co-wrote this doc (with Chris Bradley and Kevin Klauber) in intent on showing us Wayne and his work, career, family, history and ideas as thoroughly as possible, given the time-frame of 88 minutes. Overall, he and his crew have done this pretty well. Mr. White has, shall we say, a rather strong personality, and while this initially charms and helps carry the movie along, after awhile it threatens to grow a little tiresome, as the man begins to natter on about how he followed his (and therefore you should follow yours) own dream and did exactly what he wanted with his life.

Indeed, White (shown above and below) has had a remarkably varied and interesting career, and it's this that makes the film seem so vital. This, in addition to some other things, like Ms Pond, and probably their children, who have helped ground the man and allow him to pursue his dream(s).

Although Wayne (and the film) seems most interested in his more recently created and evidently popular "paintings" that use old found landscape paintings (or maybe prints) onto which the artist hand-letters amusing sayings. (The painting above states "DATE MATE SATE GRATE," a kind of history or a relationship, that White notes finds favor with men but not so much with the women.)

Much is made by White -- along with another artist or two and a gallery owner  -- regarding how the art world rejects out-of-hand art that is humorous. Maybe. But this kind of work strikes me as more a clever stunt than anything approaching fine art.

Look at any of the other of White's work that is shown in the film -- from the LBJ puppet (above and on the poster, top) to the work done for Pee-Wee's Playhouse to the amazing and enormous puppet/artwork below, complete with its own built-in fan -- and you see some amazing stuff.

Meeting one of Wayne's Tennessee friends, who may be equally talented but didn't want to try his luck in the big city, proves a most intriguing few minutes, too. Along the way, White says he'll tell us eventually what the movie's title -- Beauty Is Embarrassing -- actually means.  When he finally does, the explanation is so convoluted and near pointless that you may wonder why he bothered. In fact, real beauty is never embarrassing. The movie itself is mostly fun, though, and Mr. White is one for the books.

You can watch the film now on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video or -- if you prefer -- via DVD.

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