A reader writes:
Thanks for plugging John Marin
so aggressively…frankly, from inside the museum world it seems as if his marginalization is a function of his having done his major work on paper. Museum curators are typically departmentalized by media so that American paintings specialists will often deride works on paper (as opposed to larger works or those on canvas) as comparatively minor.
I was fascinated to hear from this correspondent, who is a curator at a well-known Eastern museum. I’d always wondered whether there was a bias in the museum biz against “small” artists, a label that could easily be attached to Marin, who left behind no large-format paintings and (as now seems clear in retrospective) did his major work in watercolor rather than oil. Sure sounds like it.
I’m of two minds regarding the changes in animation and animation tools: on one hand, I know the medium in which one works affects the work itself, often in nearly imperceivable ways — when I hand-write a first draft I produce a slightly different style of prose than when I type straight into the computer — and on the other hand, I have a gut sense that a tool is just a tool and after many revisions the initial effects of the medium become less important than the core of the content. In the case of animated movies, I believe the quality of the story and the skills of the animators have a greater impact than the means by which the movie was made.
Last Thursday’s “Wall Street Journal” included an article (“Disney Decides It Must Draw Artists Into the Computer Age,” by Bruce Orwall) about Disney’s conversion to computer-generated animation that addresses the issue from the traditional animators point of view. I will not be surprised if the conversion to CG tools is beneficial to Disney in unexpected ways: The studio’s problems may have more to do with stagnation, and forcing themselves to learn new tools and develop new processes may shake things up enough to allow creativity to happen. Glen Keane’s comment that he feels “like about 30 years ago, when I was first at Disney just learning” seems like as a good sign, don’t you think?
Yes, I do, and I’m encouraged by the optimism of this letter, though I’m not quite convinced by the comparison between writing on a computer and animating on one. There’s a difference between the former (in which the hand merely transfers pure symbols from the writer’s brain to the “support” of a computer screen) and the latter (in which the “symbols” are of interest in their own right rather than because of what they stand for). But I incline to agree that “a tool is just a tool,” and I think it’s perfectly possible that digital animation can aspire to the warmth and imagination of hand-drawn animation. Maybe. I hope.
Which reminds me to remind you that The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, the new four-DVD set of classic Warner Bros. cartoons–all of them created with nary a computer in sight–is now officially on sale. My copy arrived in the mail yesterday from amazon.com, and I had to pry myself away from it to get to the theater on time for the press preview of Wicked, which opens tomorrow and about which more Friday.
I’ll be writing about the Golden Collection in the Wall Street Journal, too, perhaps as early as next week, so I don’t want to jump my own gun, but I can tell you this: IT’S FANTASTIC. Go get one.