Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: Big Eyes

Margaret Keane Waiting for Grandmother 1962

Tim Burton’s new film about the work of Margaret Keane is as much about high art versus kitsch as it is about the story of who created the famous 1960's big-eye paintings.  It’s about what is takes to sell art, and raises questions about the purpose of art.

The film starts with a Warhol quote “I think what [Walter] Keane has done is just terrific. It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”

Keane’s paintings permeated popular culture of the mid 1960’s and early 1970's. We remember this type of art as kids, and although we didn't know the word "kitsch", we knew this art was kitsch.  Girls had posters of Keane’s type of art on bedroom walls. One woman remembers buying a small trophy for a father's day gift which included a statue of a big -eyed girl with the inscription “Best daddy in the world. “.

Example of 1960's art copying Keane's style and subject matter

The movie brings up questions about Kitsch art and the role art plays in our society.  Dialogue includes “Art is fashion.” The New York Times art critic proclaims,  “Art is to elevate not to pander.” Jason Schartzman is a high art gallery owner who asks “Why?” Why would someone admit they painted this art?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tim Burton has been collecting Margaret Keane's work since the 1970's.  According to Burton, "It was very present as artwork, exuberant art in a way, for those of us who has never been to a museum or anything."  Mr. Burton said of the paintings, "Some people obviously loved it and some people had a violently negative reaction...That's what I was interested in: polarization.  Is it art?  Is it complete kitsch?"

1 comment:

  1. Big Eyes is no more "conventional" than Ed Wood. It is directed like a piece of pop art and I admired the approach.