Spotlight: Two Artist Profiles That Explore the Depths of Creativity

By David Schonauer   Wednesday December 20, 2017

Art doesn’t just happen. Art is a journey.

That is the message of the two short films we feature today. The first, called The Monolith, focuses on the artist Gwyneth Leech, famous for using paper coffee cups as her canvas, and how, as Short of the Week  puts it, she transforms the pedestrian into the profound. It’s also the story of artistic crisis and New York real estate, told engagingly by filmmaker Angelo Guglielmo Jr.

As Leech explains in the film, her studio had become a kind of sanctuary. “I can be really bad-tempered and grumpy, and the world looks awful to me — I can even be crying on the way to the studio. I just do not want to do it,” she says. “Walking down through the city, at street level, with the traffic, weaving my way through people rushing to work, everything looks ugly to me. The city looks dirty. And then I open the door to this space, and it’s just magical.”

In depicting this 13th-floor sanctuary and its view out onto the New York skyline, Guglielmo mixes reality with time lapse and Leech’s paintings. It all builds to what seems, at first, a tragedy: Leech learns of the pending construction of a high-rise hotel that will block one of her primary sources of inspiration.

Rather than move to a new space, Leech incorporates the rising hotel into her artistic practice, painting the structure day by day. The film, notes Colossal, deftly captures this flurry of creativity against a stark backdrop of grief.

This week we also spotlight another artist profile from Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker Bas Berkhout, who has created a number of films about creatives. In 2015, we featured  his short about photographer Jessica Lehrman. And in September we spotlighted  his film about the artist Jon Burgerman, whose colorful renderings of various creatures (with big eyes) has brought him some 64,000 followers on Instagram.

More recently Berkhout completed a short film about Brooklyn-based artist, illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers, who grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland — a city, as Jeffers himself puts it, that was “politically divided and often violent.” In the film, he also notes that his mother died of MS when he was young.

 “So, I think to describe my upbringing — it was very happy,” he adds.

Berkhout’s intimate film cuts between interviews, recently shot footage of Jeffers revisiting old haunts, and vintage home movies to tell the story of how the artist’s upbringing — and an innate optimism — have influenced his work. Another influence was the birth of his own son.

In the film, Jeffers sums up the meaning of his world and the work of the artist, defining immorality as “the telling of stories and remembering."


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