Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


New York, New York-Tim Burton Exhibit

This past weekend we took a quick trip to New York. We visited MOMA for the Tim Burton exhibit, caught the theatre production of “Fela! The Musical,” and visited The Frick Collection.

The exterior entrance to the Tim Burton exhibit included a time line of his work written on the wall and his name on the wall in big black letters with giant black and white arrows pointing you to the exhibit….

…where, after they took your tickets, you walked through this facade:

The first room inside the exhibit was all black with black lighting. On display were some of Tim Burton’s paintings on black canvas, a merry-go-round like sculpture that reminded me of “Beetlejuice” and the infamous Oogie Boogie in a glass display case.

The exhibit featured costumes worn in “Edward Scissorhands” (on a Johnny Depp-like mannequin), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Batman,” and “Planet of the Apes.” Several of the claymation characters from the Oyster Boy series, Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas and Mars Attack are also on display. I had great fun looking at these pieces for their materials, construction, and size. It was stunning to see Jack Skellington and all the heads that were sculpted for each facial movement and expression seen in the movie.

The exhibit also includes a lot of Burton’s early work, including super 8 films from high school and college, a composition assignment from his early years (really, who keeps schoolwork from junior high and high school?), lots of sketches that lead to formal ideas for movies, work from his time at Disney, and even a handwritten note to Johnny Depp regarding the character development of Edward Scissorhands.

And, of course, where any music was playing, it was by Danny Elfman, Burton’s longtime music partner.

Outside the exhibit on the basement level were posters from many of Burton’s movies, his large Polaroid prints, and a theatre showing select movies. On the main floor, we were greeted by this blue, bulbous character:

One of my favorite series of drawings, however, was a study Burton did using the numbers 1-10. Using ink and watercolor, he created 11″x15″ drawings for each number and included a little poem or verse about each number. For example, in his drawing for the number one, one is lonely and sad, but by the time Burton drew number 10, number one was happily paired with zero and now one was two.

Burton also has a great way of taking simple phrases, idioms, and interpreting them in his drawings.

It was great fun to witness to Burton’s creative process and to see the development of his work over all these years. What struck me was how he creates these complex looking characters from very simple shapes that become distorted or inverted or stretched. It was also great to see the number of young adults and school age kids attending the exhibit. Remember how you felt as the “odd ball” in school? The kid who was different in dress, interests, or perhaps just not the social butterfly? Burton’s work and his background seems to reach all of us “odd balls” on some level.

Other sites at the MOMA:

Performance Art by Marina Abramovic

I admit that performance art is one form of art that I usually don’t get. I’d love to see the grants people write to get funding for these events. But that is the beauty of art; all the forms and the freedom to enjoy or not. Below is one of the live “performances” Abramovic was doing during our visit to MOMA.

Abramovic is in red. The other woman is a visitor to MOMA. Apparently the “performance” was to sit across from Abramovic and to stare at each other silently. On the 6th floor was another live installation that included naked people sitting on chairs. We didn’t get to the 6th floor.

We did visit the 4th and 5th floors which house some wonderful paintings and sculptures, including “Starry Night” by Van Gogh, the American Flag by Jasper Johns, Rothkos, famous splatter paintings by Jackson Pollock, a wheel sculpture by Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can series, and these bronze sculptures by Henri Matisse

The first two sculptures at the far end, created over three years, were realistic representations of “Jeanette.” Here Matisse worked with a live model. The three remaining sculptures were broken down into more abstract components as a representation of the face. Matisse said he was organizing the head into simplified chunks to “reveal the essential qualities” of his model.

It is hard to tell from this picture but the line of large noses made me laugh. I also felt good knowing that even Matisse had an appreciation for large noses and that my sculptures shouldn’t feel too embarrassed by their large proboscis.


Who Does She Think She Is?

Quick, name five female artists.

How did you do? Who did you name? Were you able to name five?


or maybe only three?

This question is posed to several people during the movie “Who Does She Think She Is?”

Most people can’t name a single female artist.

A group of us, all women and all artists, attended a special viewing of “Who Does She Think She Is?” as part of a fund raising effort for the Maynard Cultural Council.

I think I counted 2 men in the entire audience. Maybe 3.

That is a curious observation.

Yes, “Who Does She Think She Is?” is a movie about five female artists. But it is also a movie that talks about society’s perception of women artists and the challenges women face when we wish, no, when we MUST embrace our creative, artistic calling.  All five women in the movie are married and have children. All five women struggle with their roles as artists, wives, and mothers. And not all of their situations have a happy ending.

This is not Hollywood.

The movie reminds us of the role that women used to have in society, before we became a patriarchal, westernized society. Women were leaders and goddesses and powerful. Women presided over tribal events. Women were the glue that kept society together. Women were “cultural muses.”

And somewhere along the way, our role was diminished.

Thanks guys!

(Okay, I know that isn’t true in all modern day situations. I know men who are very supportive of the women in their lives.)

The reality is, however, that in many cases, artists (male or female) are not considered part of the fabric of society. Remember just earlier this year some members of Congress refused to endorse stimulus funds for art groups and organizations because that “doesn’t help create jobs.” We just paint, draw, sculpt; you know, play around but don’t do anything “serious.” And for women this is often even worse.

Statistics presented in the movie reveal that while women often are in the majority in art classes, it is men who make a name for themselves in the field. When it comes to exhibitions at major museums, the majority of exhibits feature art work by men. Is this because the subject matter may be “too feminine?” Is this because those who make the decision on who exhibits are predominantly men? Do women simply give up?

On the home front, it isn’t always better. We see relationships develop and fall apart. We see women striving for independence and the role support, communication, and economics all play in this scenario. I was struck by one artist’s comment that she works and creates in isolation, that no one in her church or at the schools her children attended knew she was an artist. (Of course this film probably changed that!) Another artist compared her situation to being in the woods, alone, and the wolves were circling. Support and networking is another theme that is present in the movie.

“Who Does She Think She Is?” provides insight into the lives of five female artists as they pursue their artistic goals, the roads they’ve traveled, the heartache they’ve endured, and the successes they’ve achieved. Interspersed is commentary by Dr. Maura Reilly, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (Brooklyn Museum), Doctor and author Leonard Shlain, attorney and social scientist Raine Eisler, among others.

I left the movie feeling inspired, empowered, and a little depressed. I found myself shaking my head in agreement to statements made in the film, my eyes welling with tears as I felt the pain and sorrow several of the women expressed, and I wanted to cheer as they achieved some level of success and stood fast to their goals, hopes, and dreams.

Regarding the lack of men in the audience; Like I said, the title of the movie implies that this is a “chick flick” and on some level it is. But this is also a movie that should be seen by men (partners, husbands) and women (artist or not), parents, and sons and daughters. It is a learning tool on the lives of modern day artists. It is a learning tool on following your dream and embracing your creativity.

So I ask you Who Do You Think You Are?

To read more about Who Does She Think She Is? and for information on upcoming screenings, click here.


Thursday 13: Movies

With the end of the year approaching it seemed like a good time to list 13 of my favorite movies (in no particular order.)

  • K-Pax: Kevin Spacey stars as Prot an alien visitor who happens to arrive in Grand Central Station on a visit to earth and subsequently finds himself transported to a mental hospital.  Jeff Bridges is the chief psychologist who tries to learn who Prot “really is” and in turn learns more about himself and life in general.  A sweet movie.
  • Real Genius:  An early Val Kilmer movie about a group of MIT-like geeks who are tasked to build a device that they eventually learn will be used by the military to destroy human life.  A great movie with lots of geek humor and one of the best lines about meeting a woman’s expectations.
  • Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban:  Alan Rickman gives a great performance as Severus Snape in the third installment of the Harry Potter series.  Gary Oldman is introduced as Sirius Black and David Thewlis is Remus Lupin.  ‘Nuff said.
  • The Fisher King:  An excellent performance by Robin Williams as a sweet man who suffered a breakdown due to a horrific trauma in his life.  Jeff Bridges encounters Williams’ character as his own life spirals out of control.  Williams leads Bridges on trip of self-discovery but of course there is some tragedy in between.  Directed by Terry Gilliam.
  • Like Water for Chocolate:  A very sensuous movie set in Mexico it tells the story of Tita and Pedro who fall in love but are not allowed to marry.  Tita is the youngest daughter and is expected to take care of her mother as is tradition.  It is the eldest daughter who must marry first.  Along the way, Tita learns that her cooking has special powers as evidenced when the wedding cake she made for her sister’s wedding causes the guests to be overcome with sadness.  This movie follows Tita and Pedro through their life, the relationships they forge and the love between them that never dies.  Will they ever be united?  What is this power that Tita possesses when she cooks?  A great romantic movie.  Subtitles.
  • Four Weddings & A Funeral:  Directed by Mike Newell, this movie stars Hugh Grant as a commitment phobic Brit and Andie MacDowell as the American he falls in love with.  Great humor about relationships, weddings and marriage.  A touching scene about love and loss.  A good movie on a rainy night for the hopeless romantic.
  • Glory:  This movie about the first all black regiment in the Civil War stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Carey Elwes, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher.  Matthew Broderick gives a great performance as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who led the regiment in battle while dealing with aspects of racism and prejudice from both his enemies and friends.  Denzel Washington won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role as an illiterate and angry former slave who channels his anger into the battle on the field.
  • The Breakfast Club:  A fun and honest reminder of what it is like to be in high school and the cliques we may or may not have belonged to.  Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall spend a Saturday in detention for various infractions.  During this time they open up about fitting in, loyalty to your “friends,” stereotypes, parental expectations (or lack thereof) and the pressure of being a teenager (albeit in the 80’s).  One of several John Hughes movies featuring the “brat pack” in its various incarnations.  Good soundtrack.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:  The Fellowship of the Ring set the tone for this film.  Here the characters are more developed.  The battle scenes are intense, friendships are challenged, and good and evil rage against each other.  And a couple hours watching Viggo Mortensen and Billy Boyd isn’t bad either.
  • The Usual Suspects:  Kevin Spacey won an Oscar for his role as “Verbal” Kint, a crippled con-man, in this mindbending criminal film.  Told from Verbal’s prospective, the story revolves around five criminals (the usual suspects), an boat explosion on the waterfront, $91 million in drug money, a hijacked truck, and the legendary “Kaiser Soeze.”  Watch this movie closely; the end is a stunner and may leave you as surprised as Chazz Palminteri’s character.  Also features Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, and Pete Postlethwaite.
  • Edward Scissorhands:  A classic Tim Burton film about a misfit (Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands) who is orphaned when his “father” (Vincent Price) dies and is discovered by the well-meaning Dianne Weist who brings Edward to live in suburbia as only Tim Burton can imagine it.  The vibrant colors of suburbia pop next to Depp’s pale Edward.  The neighbors appear to exist only in Burton’s imagination yet on a deeper  level some of them seem strangely familiar.  Burton makes you think about how you perceive and treat someone who is “different.”
  • Braveheart:  FREEDOM.  That is what Braveheart stands for; fighting for your freedom and standing up for your beliefs.  Mel Gibson portrays William Wallace who fought for Scotland’s independence from England (the English crown) in the 13th century and forged a relationship with Robert the Bruce.  Lots of great scenery, men in kilts, Scottish brogues, men in kilts, well-choreographed battle scenes, a love story (debatable whether this part is fact or fiction), Celtic music, and men in kilts.
  • Kundun:  A visually stunning movie directed by Martin Scorsese about the 14th Dalai Lama.  This movie begins with the choosing of the Dalai Lama at age 2 and follows him through his training to become the Dalai Lama, until his escape from Tibet in 1959 to India.  The colors, the scenery, and cinematography are spectacular.  Phillip Glass provides the soundtrack which is as emotional as the movie.