We've all had to find ways to pass the time and stay connected to our passions while at home these past few weeks. For many of us, myself included, that's meant turning to movies and television as a source of inspiration and comfort.
I began by binge-watching far too many seasons of Project Runway—to better understand the creative process, I told myself—but I decided I need a real art fix. I've always loved delving into the lives and stories of the artists behind the Denver Art Museum's exhibitions. Before COVID-19, I was lucky enough to visit Andrew and Jamie Wyeth’s stomping grounds, the Star Wars archives, and Cartier's fine jewelery atelier. But these days, diving into Netflix seems to be the closest I can get to experiencing what makes artists and designers tick.
So in honor of our upcoming exhibition, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, I first rewatched Julie Taymor's Frida. The lush colors, the clever evocations of Frida’s paintings, and the rich biographical details seemed the perfect way to prepare for our show in the fall. (I’m also tempted to download the soundtrack featuring Lila Downs to accompany my visit.)
I next went down a brief rabbit hole to investigate Norman Rockwell's presence in movies, in hopes of more pre-visit viewing gold. The American Masters PBS documentary, Norman Rockwell: Painting America, is good but learning about Rockwell's many connections to Hollywood was even more intriguing. He created the posters for the The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and The Song of Bernadette (1943), among others. And if you google the 1966 remake of Stagecoach, you might recognize the DAM's painting (pictured below; comissioned by 20th Century Fox) on the poster.
While these were all interesting discoveries, they didn't completely satisfy my creative process cravings. So I turned to the DAM's curatorial staff for suggestions. Were there movies about artists and process they recommended? Spoiler alert: there were! Many, in fact. Here's what was on their lists:
Timothy Standring—who curated Becoming Van Gogh at the DAM in 2012—mentioned Loving Vincent (which "ponders new theories on how [Van Gogh] died") and At Eternity's Gate (because "who doesn't love Willem Dafoe"). He also listed Pollock ("a splashing good flick about Jackson P.") and assured me Mr. Turner would make me want to go to Meininger's and "purchase a watercolor kit."
Eric Paddock, Curator of Photography, joined Timothy in reminiscing about classic films, like The Agony and the Ecstasy with Charleston Heston as Michelangelo. (Don’t miss Heston’s curt response to the Pope about when his Sistine ceiling would be done: “When I’m finished.”). And of the two films that portray French sculptor Camille Claudel, Eric preferred Camille Claudel 1915 due to Juliette Binoche's “more nuanced and interesting" portrayal.
Becky Hart, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, seconded all of these films while adding a slew of biopics and documentaries. She suggested Artemesia, Séraphine, and Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present. But the Austrian film Museum Hours was at the top of her "must-watch" list because it reminded her "of the magic of being in a museum and the power art has to help us connect."
Finally, Florence Mueller, Curator of Fashion and Textiles, had some excellent picks for those of you who loved our exhibition Dior: From Paris to the World: Frédéric Tcheng’s Dior and I, Terminal Station (which garnered Dior an Oscar nomination for costume design), and the recent documentary Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams. It focuses on the Paris version of the show, but she noted it's very insightful “about the work of creating an exhibition” and gives us a chance to re-experience some of our favorite fashions.