Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gus Van Sant and Andy Warhol at JSMA, opening night...

   I began the evening grateful that a friend decided to accompany me.  I had been searching for a week for a warm body but it wasn't until I went to Saturday Morning coffee with the girls that I found my companion for the evening, my old friend Eva.
   As we were approaching the exhibit Kitty, the much loved mayor of Eugene was walking out.  (I am wondering as I write this if she had her own private showing or had somewhere else to go...I guess as The Mayor you got to do a lot of hit and runs in one evening.)
    After we said "We love you Kitty" we stumbled into an already packed maze of people on the first floor of the museum and it was only 10 minutes after the doors officially opened.  I immediately asked for directions to the 'Gus VS show' then Eva and I headed upstairs into even more people many of whom were crowded around Gus Van Sant.  I perused the walls beautifully arranged with polaroids as I waited for the moment when I could get a word in with Gus.  There was a tall faggy guy (I say this in an endearing way) who looked and acted like he was both from Portland and Gus' best friend.
    "Remember when I wrote that song?" I overheard him asking Gus, "Well it was about him" he says as he is pointing to one of the 140 polaroids that were displayed like a giant montage.  "Whose this?" I heard him ask, "and whose this?"  "What film were you thinking about casting her in?  Oh my god that is Kelly Lynch"....  It went on like this for several minutes, Gus patiently answering the bazillions of questions thrown at him by the numerous people surrounding him.  (Later I heard he is quite shy and somewhat of an introvert.)
     Finally after looking around some more and noticing the quality of the enlargements from the polaroids I went up to Gus and asked, "How did you get such great quality from a polaroid?"   "Well when you shoot the 665 polaroid film", he said,  "you get a positive and a negative.  So you just put the negative into the enlarger and you can make them as large as you want since the negative is basically 4x6 just like the picture."
   I was stunned he had saved all those negatives because most people, including myself, unthinkingly throw them away.
   I started taking pictures with my IPhone so I could post them on my blog.  I took a picture of Gus while I was close enough to do so but it came out too blurry to identify.  I also took a picture of the director of the museum who was wearing a fabulous dress that looked like it was made from newspaper.  That one didn't come out either.   But this one of Charlise Theron came out beautifully.  I love the way the shadow from the window blinds cross her chest and her short butchy haircut...

      This shot of Daniel Day Lewis came out great also.  This was one of the polaroids that Gus had enlarged to larger than life size.  It was almost like he was in the room...
   It is fascinating to me how other artist do their 'work'.  What tools they use and how they make their decisions in my mind defines an artist.   From the information I gathered Gus would often try out actors who did not have agents.  He took the polaroids to remember use in visual arrangements with others that he was thinking of casting in the film to get an idea of how they would look together.  Often he would write their name and contact information on the back of the polaroid as this would be his only way to find the person if he did decide to cast them.
   (Polaroids, for me, are embedded with instant 60's nostalgia since it was the only camera I remember my father ever having.  He bought it soon after our move to America and it became a frequent guest on camping trips and family days at the beach.  When he first got the camera he would take photos all the time and these became a documentary of my childhood from 10 yrs of age on.  Okay, enough about me.)
     The next picture will be familiar to many.  It is of Keanu Reaves.  I am guessing he is 18 yrs old here, possibly younger.  He starred alongside River Phoenix in one of my favorite Gus VS movies
'My Own Private Idaho'.  It was one of the first successful movies about gay men.  Gay hustlers no less.  I still love the movie.  It spoke in a real way about the bonding that takes place between people who share a 'subculture'.
   The next picture is of the late River Phoenix who after 14 movies and just as he was rising like his namesake overdosed on heroin and cocaine.  In the picture he looks so young and innocent it is difficult to believe.  And it makes me sad all over again for the loss...
     Next is an icon who appeared in more than one of Gus' films.  Perhaps you will recognize the infamous William Burroughs who it seems only does cameo performances.  Apparently he was a good friend of Gus VS' and informed much of his work.  WB also worked with Gus on music videos.  William would recite his poetry and Gus would make music for the poem.
     It's a little blurry but I think the picture of Burroughs sort of suits him don't you think?
   I took several more pictures of Gus Van Sant's polaroids, some recognizable and some not.  First there is Jennifer Connelly again looking quite young...
   Then there is this beautiful portrait of David Bowie.  That white triangle under the right eye is a classic portraiture technique and suits him well...
    Most of Gus Van Sant's polaroids were arranged on a large panel.  They were also in black and white since that is what the 665 film came in. There were 140 of them arranged on a 4' x 6' panel.  I didn't recognized many of them which is why it was great that Gus answered "Whose this and whose that?" all night.
    I heard him say he took his camera to the Independent Spirit Awards when he was nominated for 'My Own Private Idaho' and this is why the 3 Coppola's are included on the giant panel.  The Coppolas were up too high so I couldn't get a good shot of them.  But you'll recognize this next guy if you are even a little versed in quirky filmmakers....
     It's John Waters who has strange black makeup on the right side of his face....
    The last of Gus VS' polaroids is a very young Nicole Kidman.  She starred in To Die For, made sometime in the early 90's...
       By this point it was time to walk down to the room where the food and wine were being served.  They had chicken rosemary sandwichs and lots of makings for a salad and dessert.  After all that looking and talking about art a cool glass of chardonnay was in order.
     From there we hit the photo booth which was 3 dollars for 2 sets of 4 different pictures.  There was a steady line all night.  Most people came out laughing.  Cheap thrills, and you even get a takeaway.    
     Since Gus Van Sant was in attendance that first night I spent the majority of my time there focusing on his work.  I intend on going back to the show on Wednesday when the curators will be speaking about the hows and whys of the show.  I will do an entirely different post on Warhol's work.  Thanks for reading and as always your comments are welcomed.... yona c. riel


  1. that was wonderful, yona! i love polaroids, too. i still have some film! thanks for posting the pics...they are incredible.

  2. vickie! i still have some cameras... 2, the land camera and a one shot...maybe we should figure something out... xoyo

  3. these pcs don't speak well of polaroids, do they?

  4. Très bon site. Je vous remercie du travail en Juillet.