Persistence is Inspiring in Beauty is Embarrassing
Our blog hiatus is over and we are back!
A couple of nights ago we finally got around to watching the documentary BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING (dir. Neil Berkeley, 2012). It chronicles the varied career of the American artist, art director, sculptor, puppet-builder, puppeteer, and all-around creative guy, Wayne White.
Even if you’ve never heard of White. you’ve probably seen his art direction and the creations he’s built and animated on shows like Pee-wee’s Playhouse and in music videos like The Smashing Pumpkin’s “Tonight, Tonight” and Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time”.
The film documents the highs and lows of his art directing and animating career and also brings the viewer up to speed with his latest exploration through fine art: the superimposing of giant thought-provoking and funny text on otherwise insipid oil paintings. His “mission” he says, is to “bring humour into fine art”, and throughout the film he displays both his irreverence for baseless snobbery and his belief that humour in art is, in fact, deeply affecting, important, and a profound part of the human experience.
White says he stood out in Tennessee like the art freak he was, and moved to New York after college lured by the comic art resurgence going on there at the time. Performing his first puppet show at an East Village art gallery, he met his wife, the cartoonist Mimi Pond, and the two embarked on a wild adventure in the cartoon, animation, television and art worlds, raising a family along the way. “I learned that art could be a 24/7 lifestyle,” he says in the film.
Now living in L.A., White uses his paintings to poke fun at the vanity and ego of the artist, at the reactions he’s received from the art establishment, at the pompous vacuity that is Los Angeles, and, it seems, the Tennesseean voices in his head.
What is inspiring about Wayne White and Mimi Pond is their undiluted, unquestioning belief in their own creative impulses. Their household is a place where the need to create, to craft, build, write, and paint, is taken for granted, and the only thing to be decided is how to navigate around that impulse.
If you have any doubts about your creative process or feel like you don’t always give yourself permission to pursue your weirdest creative impulses, watch Beauty is Embarrassing. It will remind you that you don’t need any permission to create–you don’t even really need to know why you do it–and that the world is as open (or indifferent) to your voice and vision as it is to White’s. He pleases himself by painting and so the rest of us can get a kick out of it too.