QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

Beauty is Embarrassing

Beauty is Embarrassing is a documentary about artist Wayne White, perhaps best known for puppet design and work on the CBS show Pee Wee's Playhouse. The title comes from a piece White has done, and gets a thorough explanation late in the film.

Basically Wayne White is non-stop making stuff, much of it in a rough untutored style: cardboard, hot-melt glue, sticks found on the ground, scrap wood, other garbage. But some is highly skilled. And all of it comes from the radical notion that art should be fun.

One of the things he does for no apparent reason other than to have fun is make a giant carboard head / mask of Lyndon B Johnson and then wears it out in the world. He hands out cards asking people to elect him, dances, talks with passerbys.

Lots of the film is with White, but there are small snips of shows he's worked on, and several conversations with people who have worked with him, such as Paul Ruebens. Also Matt Groening even though he doesn't seem to have ever worked with White, but later in the film it is revealed that Groening has worked with White's spouse, Mimi Pond.

The showing I went to had Wayne White in the theatre to introduce the film and answer questions after. Some bits I thought interesting from the "You got Q and I've got A" section:

Will he ever get tired of it and do something else? No, he's been drawing and painting since he was three and will never stop.

Will he be taking his word-in-landscape paintings to the next level? Yes, he's in negotiations to put words in the Tennessee mountains.

What's his ideal day? Get up at 7:30, walk the dog, have breakfast at 8 (yogurt and something else), paint until 2ish, smoke some weed, then paint until 7ish.

After "Why did you learn to play banjo?" He named two musicians I'm not going to remember. Then he talked about wanting to be different and everyone else picking up guitars. Then he mentioned it was 1977 and this album called "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" came out. According to White "Banjos are punk." He said "I don't have the banjo, but LBJ is in the lobby and will be posing for photos."

Three quarters of a Dodge Econoline van with an-all-over DNA painting.

larger than life LBJ

LBJ in the lobby.

Beauty is Embarrassing at IMDB

Wayne White at IMDB

Mimi Pond at IMDB

Final thought: film was at the Roxie in San Francisco because his wife asked them to show it