Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck
The world of fine art is, frankly, often inaccessible to the average person. It’s a world of privilege and personality; an institution built on hyperbole, mystique, and celebrity. As is true in many vocations, success in the art world seems to be as much about cultivating one’s reputation as it is about talent. Too often the focus is on the artist as the Warholian center of a cult of personality rather than as the creator of works which activate and connect with others on a profound level.
So it is refreshing to see an artist who appears to shun these tiresome affectations while at the same time displaying immense talent and gentle humility in equal measures. Indiana-born artist David Beck, subject of director Olympia Stone’s “Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck” is a compelling example that an artist’s work can still speak for itself in this age of commoditized ego.
Beck’s work is an amalgamation of diorama, sculpture, painting, architecture and mechanized puppetry. Beck’s pieces often take the form of miniature buildings or environments populated with whimsical creatures and characters that seem to inhabit a vibrant world all their own. The artist spends countless hours meticulously crafting in his workshop, creating everyday artifacts writ small, endowed with an intricacy that is at once childlike and masterful. His style can be best described as “intimate scale,” as there is a repeated motif of discovery in all of his works. Beck’s little worlds are meant to be observed closely, with numerous doors and cabinets that open up to reveal even smaller wonders.
Beck’s unique totems have been exhibited internationally from San Francisco to New York and from Barcelona to Dresden. His work has also been featured prominently in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Despite his success, Beck remains much like his work: quirky but friendly, unassuming yet deeply brilliant. Olympia Stone’s documentary follows Beck about as he works in his studio and describes his process and his background. There is no dramatic story arc or troubled upbringing in this film, just a engaging portrait of a talented man who creates wonderfully beautiful artwork without much fanfare. Having spent some time in art school myself, I see in Beck some of the eccentricity that often associates with talent, but none of the pretense that too often nips at the heels of genius.
“Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck” is an enchanting tour of the mind of a craftsman who builds beguiling fantasy worlds out of limitless ingenuity. If you are even modestly interested in art this film is well worth your time.
Next 2015 Indy Film Fest screening: Wednesday, July 22 at 1:45pm in the Toby Theater at the IMA