Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Finding Vivian Maier" and "Art and Craft"

At the recent Hudson Docfest, two of the screened films had similar subjects. Both offered a fascinating look into the lives of eccentric, even troubled, artists and both are available to view on-line.

My favourite film in the festival was "Finding Vivian Maier", the story of a mysterious and complicated woman who, since her death, has been recognized as an exceptional photographer. Maier made her living as a nanny for a succession of American families, using an assumed name and an approximation of a French accent. She was rarely seen without a Rolleiflex around her neck.

Her work came to light when thousands of her negatives were auctioned off to a young man who was looking for some vintage images. He was intrigued by the accumulated detritus of Maier's life found in the storage containers he acquired, and began an investigation into her life.

The film is visually compelling, with a gripping narrative. It consists largely of interviews with those whose lives intersected with Maier's, and of the black-and-white photos developed from her film. We learn that Maier was at times abusive with the children in her care, that she was a hoarder, and that she had an obsessive concern for her own privacy.  But her photos show someone with a keen eye for the human condition, and they have been internationally acclaimed since their discovery.

To see a trailer for the film and to read a review, click on the Rotten Tomatoes link.

"Art and Craft" tells the story of Mark A. Landis, an art forger who donated a large number of copied works to more than 60 art museums, over a period of more than 20 years, often using an assumed name. Often he would provide a falsified document to support his story of the provenance of the work.

Landis has not been charged with any crime, because he never profited from his fraud.

An exhibit of some 60 of his forgeries was staged at the University of Cincinnati Gallery in 2012. Also on display was the priest's costume that Landis sometimes wore in the course of his misrepresentations. Landis actually attended the event.

"Art and Craft" was partially financed through Kickstarter, and released in 2014. To see a trailer of the documentary and read a review, go to Rotten Tomatoes.

Two damaged spirits with a misguided talent, each looking for love in their own strange way.

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