This takes me back to my days with a teeny tiny flower press, marveling at the fragile and delicate dried and pressed flowers that even I, an entirely ham-fisted child, could somehow produce. But of course this project has a far more serious goal in mind—to document and barcode every plant in existence. I love the spirit and soul of this project—and Ellen Jorgensen, of the Brooklyn-based biohacking lab Genspace, is a rockstar.
I was predestined to love the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing. After all, I heard Wayne White speak at F5, a performance heavily featured in the film. (Banjo-playing was involved, so ‘performance’ feels like the right word to use; it certainly wasn’t your average spin through an artist’s portfolio.) And I already have a well-developed soft spot for White, a healthy respect for his incredible artistry and admiration for his irreverent take on the art world.
Safe to say, this film was going to be for me. And it’s charming; White is delightful; his work is amazing. It’s everything it should be. A couple of sample quotes:
I can do anything I want to do. Fuck, man. Let’s get on it. Time’s running out.
My mission is to bring humor into fine art. Not art world funny but real world funny.
What I wasn’t expecting was to become equally smitten with White’s wife, Mimi Pond, an incredible artist in her own right (she wrote the first episode of The Simpsons), who quietly emerges from the film as its true hero. She’s the one who stepped back from her promising career to look after the family and bring up the pair’s two children. She clearly provides the spring in White’s step, buoying him up when the anxiety gets too much, but it wasn’t like a supporting role was always her dream. Hearing her quiet admission, “There was a point when I felt absolutely invisible” made it clear that while she didn’t regret her decision, it hadn’t come lightly. And seeing her prepare to get back into the art world towards the end of the film was moving and exciting. Go, Mimi Pond. Go!
[All images c/o Wayne White/Beauty is Embarrassing.]