Utne Blogs > Abstract Notions

Abstract Notions

Editor Christian Williams explores the nature of consciousness through art, culture, and spirituality.

See It Soon: Beauty is Embarrassing

 wayne white - beauty is embarrassing 

Artist Wayne White, the puppet master behind Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, demonstrates how to live life through art in the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing.  

I’m always looking for a good film recommendation, so I thought it only fair that I start a weekly feature within this blog where I recommend something I’ve recently watched. I’m calling it “See It Soon,” and I’ll do my best to post every Friday so you can plan your weekend watching accordingly.

In my first post for this blog, I mentioned a childhood fascination with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Well, I should have clarified that the fascination has stretched past childhood and well into my adult years. I know I’m not alone, though, as there are plenty of adults perpetuating the surreal silliness of that show; specifically, some of the artists that were involved in the creation of the show.

One such artist is Wayne White, whose life and work is profiled in the recent documentary Beauty is Embarrassing. In the Pee-Wee years, White created the puppets that populated the Playhouse. More recently, he’s finding old paintings at flea markets and updating them with contemporary phrases and slogans to create fantastic-looking surrealistic scenes:

wayne white art

While the film is a great retrospective of White’s art, my favorite scenes are the ones that show everyday life in the White household, where Wayne and his wife, cartoonist Mimi Pond, encourage their children by example to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity that comes along to be creative. Not only is the film an interesting look at an artist’s lifetime of work, but an inspirational example of how to live one’s life to the fullest. Watch it on DVD or video on demand.

Christian Williams is Editor in Chief of Utne Reader, and he also paints and makes music. View and listen to his work at www.christianwwilliams.com. Follow him on Twitter: @cwwilliams.