Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Mary Blair’s concept art for Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, 1951
I was reading an article in Vulture by Jerry Saltz called How To Be An Artist, a refreshing read even if you’re a seasoned scribbler. Here’s the link:
Toward the end, he asks:
”Have you ever cried in front of a work of art? Write down six things about it that made you cry. Tack the list to your studio wall. Those are magical abracadabras for you.”
I thought back on the art shows, museums, galleries and studios that I’ve been lucky enough to look at, from oily ”old masters” in Europe to gorgeous Japanese woodblock prints in Osaka. I’ve been delighted and even stunned by what I’ve seen in the art world —grabbing my sketchbook and breathlessly scribbling in front of a masterpiece, trying to capture the moment.
But I was never brought to tears by any of those exhibits — not until I stumbled into a small showing of Mary Blair’s concept pieces in the lower halls of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. It was my first time there, (2013?) and I didn’t realize Blair’s pieces would be on display. Being surprised by her original paintings like that, some I had never even seen prints of, made me burst into tears.
There’s something mystical about her work that’s hard for me to pinpoint — the sparkle you see from the corner of your eye when you were a kid. Was that a pixie? Black sky, moon rocking into a cat’s smile, bread-and-butterflies. Maybe you actually *can* fly. I could go on and on about why her work moves me, and you might be thinking, really? This Disney concept artist moves you more than Michelangelo?
The tears say it all, I suppose. We are living in a time that accepts illustration as real art, so I’ve only come across “fine art” snobbery a little in my career (or maybe I’ve just learned to ignore that noise!). But some would say that there are certain art forms that are more noble, or inherently better, than others. In my opinion, that‘s poppycock.
So! If there’s something that truly moves you, I hope you feel free to honor it. I’ve been lucky enough to do so and it means the world to me.
And do check out that Jerry Saltz article above. I still have to do the exercise he suggests (writing down the six abracadabras). Below are pictures of the museum & show. I only have a few: I guess I was too dazed to take a lot of pictures!
👆🏼Mary’s hard hat she decorated and wore during the construction of It’s A Small World in Disneyland
👆🏼Me, post Mary-Blair-induced cry, in front of a Camille Rose Garcia mural. What an exhibit that was! 😍