I admit it, I don’t know much about art. I knew early on that I would never make a good artist – I hate to get dirty. In first grade I was sent off to art class to finger paint. I remember arguing with the art teacher. I just couldn’t understand why I should use my nice clean fingers when paint brushes were but a few feet away. It made no sense to me. But my grandfather was an amazing artist. He was a painter and a photographer and if it hadn’t been for his debilitating color blindness, it would have been his life’s work. Spending time with him, I got to know about how he approached his art and how that approach often wandered into his personal life.
“Beauty is Embarrassing” is a documentary film the explores the life and work of pop artist Wayne White. It takes the moviegoer on a journey to his childhood in rural Tennessee, his college years, his move to New York to become an artist and his ultimate success as a set designer for TV show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
But more than just a biographical look at one of today’s most prolific pop artists. It explores how art is created, what internal thought process ultimately makes a work of art and the personal journey of desire to create, a need to earn a living and the trappings of success.
I was pleasantly surprised with this documentary. I was entertained, mesmerized and completely taken with this southern artist that has varied abilities and applies them with a sense of whimsy and satire that is off-beat, irreverent and just plain silly – all at the same time.
“Beauty is Embarrassing” is White’s own belief about his work. He is an artist at heart and if he could just make art and put it out into a void and just get back enough enumeration to pay his bills, I am sure White would be on board. But in order to make it as an artist, you have to sell yourself and that can be a bit embarrassing – especially if you are a humble and kind person as White seems to be.
Lately, I have seen a string of really boring documentaries. It was more than a pleasure to see this film. I loved it completely and give it my highest praises. If you get a chance, see “Beauty is Embarrassing,” you will be happy to meet this amazing artist and peek into his world – which I find is not embarrassing at all.
“Beauty is Embarrassing” is not rated and has a runtime of 1 hour and 31 minutes.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones & no texting, please don’t talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don’t forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work on SilentHollywood.com