The other misunderstanding [about art] is that it is beyond their means. Yet the people of the United States live beyond their means, gladly and disastrously. They have let themselves be sold the biggest bill of goods in history by a Frankenstein – industrial advertising – of their own making. We all are perfectly content to make down payments on any luxury we’re told we can’t live without, but we can’t quite bring ourselves to chance investing in ourselves through education, art, or any of those splendors we lyrically call “the best things in life”…
Many people are blinded by fear of seeing something different, or of seeing anything differently, or by the inability to differentiate between what they know how to see and what they could see if they knew how.
It is so easy today, with every medium of communication serving us feasts for the eyes, to see the world as the best of all possible worlds; to see mankind in its true light as the creator of so much beauty, to surround ourselves with the knowledge of art, man’s highest expression of gratitude for the gift of life.
Art is, or can be, an everyday experience, and if you make it such, every day will have a beginning and an end that means continuance, furtherance, and futurity. (p. 175)
Image from the television show ‘What in the World’ where Vincent Price was on a panel to determine the where/what/when of objects. Watch the episode here.
As many people know May 2011 marks the 100th birthday of art/food/horror/acting legend Vincent Price. Places all over the world are celebrating this “Vincentennial” with screenings, such as Cinema St. Louis, special websites, and other events. What many people don’t know much about is Price’s visual obsession with art. People are generally surprised to discover there is the Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles, a gallery space to which his collection has been donated and that has given East Los Angeles College unprecedented access to a serious body of work. I even have the most incredible book on Impressionist paintings at the Louvre that includes, in addition to slides, a 45 record with Price narrating art commentary. Because somehow this aspect to his life has gotten lost in his popular historical persona, I am going to celebrate 100 years of Vincent Price by continuing to post his thoughts on art from his “visual autobiography” I Like What I Know.
The real meat of art appreciation and enjoyment is often the undiscovered, the unknown, the newly discovered, or those delectable tidbits we rediscover for ourselves…I will never fail to be impressed (or sometimes unimpressed) by the masterpieces, but it is those things I have made up my mind about, and am willing to make an effort for, that really belong to me. In our collection are objects I consider masterworks, and I don’t care who agrees with me…I have wanted to say only that art is so much a part of my life I would love to have it become a part of the lives of others who perhaps never thought of it as other than an outside experience; who have never let themselves become involved in and with the creative act of other men and women. (p. 143)
Read earlier quotes here.
I’m currently reading Vincent Price’s I Like What I Know, a Visual Autobiography (1969) and the horror legend has some incredibly quotable thoughts on art. Price, an avid art enthusiast, has been both a dealer and a collector. In this book he charmingly details his passion for art and it’s truly contagious:
“…it came to me that I was not going to be blessed with creative genius, and it may also have been at this moment that I made up my mind that, as long as this was true, I had darn well better compensate for it by becoming the most receptive human being I could become. I knew for sure that I liked art, and I’d better know everything I could about what I liked. I became an audience, then and there, for the drama of the eye. And once you accept that fact, it is almost impossible to be bored with life. You have a built-in recipe for the cure of that most dread disease: boredom…the living death. All you have to do is open your eyes.” (Page 65)
Family portraits in The Fall of the House of Usher encapsulate the Usher’s ‘plague of evil’.
The second film for The Art of Fear is Roger Corman’s vibrant The Fall of the House of Usher or House of Usher (1960) starring the estimable Vincent Price. Like The Picture of Dorian Gray the film adapts a literary classic, Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name published in 1839. It is the first of eight movies Corman would use Poe, sometimes adding a little H.P. Lovecraft into the mix, and besides The Masque of the Red Death it is the best of the bunch. Paintings actually factor in many of the Corman/Price/Poe movies – remember the watchful painting of the ‘dead’ wife in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and the looming ancestral portrait in The Haunted Palace (1963). Considering Corman’s original A Bucket of Blood (next feature on AOF), perhaps he has an art fetish!
I’m happy to announce the launch of a new writing feature on The Girl Who Knew Too Much called The Art of Fear. Titled in homage to Vincent Price’s BBC radio programme The Price of Fear and subsequent biography, The Art of Fear focuses on horror cinema’s prolific usage of art as the focal point of fear. Below is an introduction, in the very simplest of terms, to what I hope will become a lively, thought-provoking, and entertaining discussion on two of my favorite things: art and horror.
That horror films frequently feature artwork is not a startling revelation but this noticing this brought my individual obsessions with horror and art together, kick-starting my research on horror’s influence on contemporary artists. Now, by delving into arts role in horror I can further map out connections between the two. It also raises significant questions: Why is it that painting and sculpture can easily incorporate into horror narratives? What is it about art and artists that adapt so readily into the horrific? And since visual art and cinema are two different ways in which to tell a story, how can the collation of the two in the context of the horror genre, establish a more in-depth visual and narrative experience?
Here I’ll address these questions through a discussion of films such as Picture of Dorian Gray, House of Usher, Daughters of Satan as well as the television series Night Gallery in the terms of how artwork is used as the motivating force of horror. I’ll also be looking at how the conservation and preservation of art is an integral part of apocalyptic films like The Omega Man, I am Legend, and Children of Men. This ongoing process becomes more profound and fun with each new discovery I make and I hope it’ll be the same for you!
The plan is to publish an entry for The Art of Fear each week until the series concludes (if it ever does) but, of course, this may vary from time-to-time. First up will be… Albert Lewin’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
Featured so far:
Image: Rod Serling introducing an episode of Night Gallery where the artwork told the story.