Pee Wee's Playhouse was a collage of art forms, where furniture puppets turned into characters and wallpaper sucked you into a cross-dimensional portal. If you cracked open the snow-globe brain of artist Wayne White you'd see much of the same. He designed the set for the cult production back in his young, wild New York art scene days and led a shifting generation into a functioning piece of experimental theater, masquerading as children's television.
There's a new documentary about White's life, Beauty is Embarrassing, and its Dallas run is Friday (today) through Sunday, October 28, at Texas Theatre. As a fan of his previous work in animation and of his current career as a painter, I'd expected to enjoy to film. I thought I could play it in the background while getting other things accomplished. Clearly, I was unprepared.
Wayne White, we learn, is more than just an engaging artist, he's an example of a life lived. And this film is a visual parallel to his work: a moving sketchpad of illustration, video footage, cartoons, rock videos and interviews. You'll hear from everyone from Mark Mothersbaugh and Matt Groening to Wayne's adorable wife and fellow cartoonist, Mimi. It gives you a visual immersion that is as peculiar and brilliant as its muse. You cannot look away, and you wouldn't want to.[jump]
White's current artistic method is derived as much from Dali as Dollywood, with humorous southern phrasing painted three dimensionally into existing canvasses that he scoops up from thrift shops and salvage joints. He adds jokes, tiny details, to many of the works, which pile layers of depth to both his peculiar Tennessee charm and his multifaceted artistic talents. On one painting White has designed his words to look like welded metal shooting into a landscape in a surreal manner. Then he points out his own version of a secret track: two hyper-realistic miniature cans of beer rest at the bottom of an "A" and he explains "the tiny fellas who worked there, building the letters, had a few after a long day."
It sums up his approach to everything. He sees worlds where others see flat paper. He imagines giant puppets where normal people see trash. He feels boutiful generosity, love and support where others see a jilted upbringing. It's a joy to watch and doubles as a lesson in happiness' true origin. You'll leave the theater kissing puppies, recycling and wishing that you had even an ounce of artistic talent in your body.