A Keane eye

Margaret Keane, The First Grail, 1962

Margaret Keane, The First Grail, 1962

You might remember seeing faded prints of sad, haunting, waif-like children with overly large eyes, displayed in charity shops or in houses during the 1960s and 1970s. However, did you know that the works by American artist Margaret Keane, though derided by art critics and dealers, hung in the mansions of major Hollywood stars and in European museums? Or that her paintings were praised by artists such as Dali, Picasso and Warhol?

Through mass marketing, Margaret’s work became was incredibly popular with the general public. It sold millions of copies, when reproduced in affordable forms such as wall sized posters and cards, which you could buy in supermarkets and gift shops. Margaret’s waifs influenced the style of other painters and graphic artists. Unfortunately, Margaret never received the money that she earned from sales of her paintings, nor received the recognition that she deserved until recent times.

Produced and directed by Tim Burton, the movie Big Eyes stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. It is based on the true story of how Margaret’s husband Walter Keane created an elaborate deception, fooling the world by claiming credit for his wife’s art.

The film opens with the statement that the 50s was a great time if you were a man.

Fleeing a bad marriage in the mid-1950s, shy suburban housewife Margaret Hawkins flees to San Francisco with her young daughter, where she makes her living painting motives on furniture. She supplements her income at an outdoor market, painting children’s portraits in her distinctive style because “The eyes are the window to the soul”. It is there that Margaret meets the charming, ambitious landscape artist and real estate salesman Walter Keane. When Margaret’s former husband attempts to declare her an unfit mother and secure full custody of their daughter, Margaret accepts Walter’s offer of marriage.

Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane in Big Eyes.

Amy Adams plays Margaret Keane in Big Eyes.

Margaret Keane, Little Ones, 1962.

Margaret Keane, Little Ones, 1962.

Always the opportunist, Walter seeks out new ways to sell their art. He rents out wall space in a popular club. When patrons of the club start to notice only Margaret’s paintings of children, Walter takes credit for her work. The lie builds in intensity, as famous identities come to the club to see buy the pictures and the media takes an interest in this latest trend. It is not until Margaret watches Walter selling the paintings at the club does she realise what is happening. Although she is disturbed by Walter’s behaviour, Margaret has so little self esteem that she reluctantly goes along with the charade. She loves Walter and tells herself that she is doing the right thing. Remember, this was an era where women were expected to defer to the judgment of the head of the household, to their husband or father.

Big Eyes handles serious themes such as violence towards women, but Tim Burton’s quirky influence comes through. Sets are beautifully designed and there is a sense of otherworldliness to the look of the film. Burton uses warm lighting, bright colours and intense pastels in the cinemaphotography and he depicts suburbia like a model village, reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. The film has elements of a fairytale. Margaret’s character is Burton’s usual blonde protagonist. She is the innocent woman imprisoned in a tower, living a nightmare. In in her attic studio, she is forced by her evil husband to paint magical pictures for up to 16 hours a day.

Christopher Waltz plays the deranged Walter Keane.

Christopher Waltz plays the deranged Walter Keane.

Burton’s brand of comedy comes through in both his characterisation and in his presentation of peculiar situations. For example, the exceptionally sweet Jehohavah Witness ladies arrive at Margaret’s door and change her life. An art snob who runs a fashionable modern art gallery rejects the paintings of waifs as kitsch but tries to sell splotches of paint on canvases to wealthy customers. Christopher Waltz expertly plays the egotistical Walter Keane, depicting his flamboyance and over the top mannerisms. Yet we are never in doubt of how sinister and deranged the character really is.

Big Eyes is also the story of Margaret’s triumph. As society starts to change for women throughout the 1960s and 70s, Margaret will find the courage to take control of her life and fight for her reputation as an artist.

Margaret Keane, San Francisco Here We Come, 1991.

Margaret Keane,
San Francisco Here We Come, 1991.

Margaret Keane aged 88 with Amy Adams

Margaret Keane aged 88 with Amy Adams

You can borrow the DVD or blu ray of Big Eyes through the One Card Network. Reserve it through the online catalogue or enquire at the Library. Find out more about Margaret and her work at: http://keane-eyes.com and http://www.margaretkeane.com/

South Aussie Women of the Arts

ThWomen of the Artsis fabulous new book, Women of the Arts showcases 50 of the state’s female arts personalities, including film directors, costume designers, singers, songwriters, actors, dancers, production coordinators and everything in between.

Produced locally, it was written and photographed by TTG residents Ali and Rocky Feo who have strong ties with SA’s arts world.

They have creatively and beautifully captured 50 of the leading women in the arts field highlighting the personal stories of identities such as singer Rachael Leahcar , Costume, Makeup & Hair Design expert Beverly Freeman, author Dylan Coleman, actor Michaela Cantwell and dozens more.
We have two copies – one for loan, and one for preservation in our Community History collection. You can place a hold here and you can also follow the book’s Facebook page.

Street Craft – the next step from Street Art

STREET-CRAFT-EDP-8631910This cute book is soon to join the collection. Street Craft, by Rikka Kuittinen is a collection of art works, including street sculpture, yarn bombing, ‘urban crochet’, light installation and more, which are transforming tiny corners of cities around the world.

28 artists are featured, each providing a short bio and then what inspires them, followed by some glorious photographs of their works. Works range from the dark to bright and cheerful and are all emotive.

Street Craft

Street Craft is becoming a cultural phenomena, you’d be hard pressed to find a populated area that doesn’t feature some ‘guerrilla art‘ – not always legal, sometimes unappreciated, but always making a comment.

This and other street art books are available at the Library.

Hear the magic of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Experience a magical night of classical music from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the Golden Grove Arts Centre, as part of their ‘Out of the CBD’ Tour, on Saturday January 31.

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

The following scores will be performed:

Wagner – Siegfried Idyll (original version with single strings)
Saint-Saens – Cello Concerto no 1
Mozart – Symphony no 41 ‘Jupiter’

Nathan Aspinall – Conductor
Simon Cobcroft – Cello

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to experience the world class music of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra so close to home.

When: Saturday 31 January at 7.30pm
Cost: $20 (all tickets)
Bookings: online or call the box office on 8397 7429