Art Couples

Every holiday season we take advantage of Walt’s days off by staying up late and watching movies. My favorite movies are art documentaries. This Thanksgiving weekend, we watched three.

We started with Cutie and the Boxer.

Cutie and the BoxerI loved this film. Cutie is Noriko Shinohara and the Boxer is Ushio Shinohara. The film documents their 40 year marriage. Ushio is a Japanese Neo-Dadaist known for his boxing paintings and his larger than life cardboard motorcycles.

Ushio PaintingUshio-Shinohara-Boxing-Painting-March-252010-Ethan-Coen-FIne-ArtsUshio Shinohara MotorcycleHis career has been long and interesting, but not particularly financially successful.

Through it all Noriko has been his wife, mother of their child, assistant, housekeeper, and chef.

Noriko ShinoharaHere is the thing. She loves him, but she also wants to be her own artist. Ushio loves her, but he wants Noriko’s life to be lived in the service of his art.

After many many years of fighting for her artistic space in their lives, Noriko finally figures out how to talk above Ushio’s voice. She begins to tell the story of Cutie and the Boxer also known as the Bully.

Noriko ShinoharaI am still thinking about this. About how angry Noriko must have been at certain times in their lives together and how she finally did it–claimed her space. And poor Ushio–he is still trying to make sense of it.

Noriko ShinoharaThe next night we watched EAMES: The Architect and the Painter, A Documentary about American Designers Charles & Ray Eames.

eamessplashThis was also an exceptionally good movie on so many levels. Before I watched the movie, I knew that Ray and Charles were married, and that they had a long and successful career making chairs and cultivating what we now think of as the mid-century modern aesthetic.

Eames ChairsI had no idea that there was so much more to their work. The most surprising thing for me to discover were their movies. They created the Power of Ten. Now that is just crazy! And who knew that they were willingly Cold War propagandists? I didn’t.

Unlike Noriko and Ushio, Ray and Charles relationship was grounded in Charles need for Ray’s sense of color and composition. Here is a lovely example of that. What makes this photo work?

Eames ChairsI think we would all say that it is the placement of that bird. That bird is Ray’s touch. But as Charles moved more and more into film and big ideas his need for Ray’s expertise diminished. While they stayed together they grew apart.

Ray and Charles EamesAfter that movie, I decided that we had to watch another movie about an art couple–I like threes. We did a a bit hunting and settled upon Guest of Cindy Sherman.

Guest of Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman is best known for the photographs she takes of herself. In each photo she creates a persona that exists only in that photo.

Cindy ShermanShe does it all–make up, costuming, lighting, photography, and editing.

Cindy ShermanShe is a major American artist. Unlike Ushio, she is RICH.

Cindy ShermanThe director of Guest of Cindy Sherman is Paul Hasegawa-Overacker. Paul H-O, as he likes to be called, was Cindy’s boyfriend for about four years.

Paul H-OPaul’s real claim to fame is founding and running a cable access show called Gallery Beat. In this kind of wacky art news show, Paul and friends crash gallery and museum openings, participate in naked installations, and interview most of the major players in the New York art scene from 1993-2000.

mast-gallerybeatThat is how they met. The footage of them flirting is very good, but the relationship that follows never really goes deep.

Paul HO and Cindy ShermanAnd that is, for me, what is troubling about the movie. Here is my conclusion. Paul makes his art by being who he is. Cindy makes her art by being who she is not. And that did not make for a very long lasting union.

Paul struggles to find his identity in a world where Cindy so clearly has hers. Their relationship falls apart, and all Paul has in the end is this movie. Which in its own way is an interesting look at the New York art scene, relationships, and power.

What a great weekend of movies. Have you watched any good art documentaries lately? I’d love to hear about them.

This entry was published on December 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM. It’s filed under Thoughts and Opinions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Art Couples

  1. There are so many great artists, writers, etc. who were only able to achieve what they did, by having a very supportive wife or partner. They are often the unsung heroes or heroines that the public seldom hears about.

  2. What a great post! Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo had an inflammatory relationship and each a spectacular career as an artist. I loved the book by Barbara Kingsolver called La Lacuna, which featured these two characters. Here is a link to much more fodder for interesting research. (I had no idea that Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were personally entangled!)

    • Thank you Barb- Diego and Frida are my favorite couple. I love the movie Frieda! I will have to check that book out. I did not know about it. I found that link when I was looking for our thrid documentary. I thought the same thing about Johns and Rauschenberg!

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