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Art People: The Pageant Portraits

This short-form behind-the-scenes film documents Matthew Rolston's personal journey through the creation of the series "Art People: The Pageant Portraits" during Pageant of the Masters, a tableau vivant show of living pictures that has taken place in Laguna Beach, California, for more than 80 years.

Released on 12/17/2017

Credits

Art People: The Pageant Portraits, Documentary, TRT: 15:35, © Matthew Rolston Creative Inc., 2017 / 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Transcript

00:03
(peaceful music)
00:09
As an artist, I think I've always been interested
00:11
in people most of all.
00:12
And that is the most popular subject in the history of art.
00:15
Other humans.
00:30
I've always been interested in humans.
00:31
That's my subject matter.
00:33
I started out as a portrait photographer.
00:34
I think I was interested in the way people looked
00:37
in order to understand them.
00:39
Later as I moved into glamour portraiture, I realized
00:41
that I could alter the perception of a personality
00:43
through the way that they looked, their surface.
00:46
I could alter their surface, and therefore
00:48
change the perception of a personality.
00:53
This new project attempts to explore a very
00:56
simple human question, why do we make art?
01:03
It's called Art People.
01:10
(majestic orchestral music)
01:21
Throughout my youth and in my adult life,
01:23
I have attended a popular local summer attraction
01:25
here in Southern California called Pageant of the Masters.
01:31
(audience applauding)
01:37
The Pageant of the Masters is a superbly crafted
01:40
tableau vivant entertainment in which human beings
01:43
painted in costume stand on artfully crafted
01:46
and lighted sets and they allow themselves to be
01:48
turned into living works of art.
01:50
(low monotone synthesized humming)
02:01
This show is not for what we actually call art people.
02:04
Art people is a phrase used to describe people
02:07
in the contemporary art world who probably
02:09
have no knowledge of the show.
02:10
They'd probably think it was silly or kitsch.
02:15
I don't think it's silly and I don't think it's kitsch.
02:29
(audience applauding)
02:37
My name is Chris Reiser.
02:38
I am a retail clerk in the grocery industry.
02:41
I'm a pageant volunteer, a Pageant Masters volunteer
02:44
for going on, this just finished my 20th season.
02:48
My name is Jonathan.
02:49
I'm a bench technician at Leica Geosystems.
02:51
I repair robotic survey equipment.
02:53
My name's Karen Hendricks and I'm a PA,
02:56
Physician Assistant.
02:58
My wife and I first saw the show in 2003.
03:00
I had gone to it a few times growing up.
03:03
The very next year we tried out for the cast.
03:06
The original reason I started doing the pageant,
03:08
when my son turned seven years old, it was something
03:11
we had seen the show and I wanted him to experience that.
03:15
Going through the pageant with my son,
03:17
through his eyes, different poses he did and
03:19
different people he became in the paintings.
03:22
It kinda makes you look at art different.
03:24
Now when we see pieces of art, my daughter will say
03:26
oh, they could use that in the pageant!
03:28
I went as a child.
03:30
In fact, it was a formative experience of my childhood
03:32
and in some ways led to my career today
03:34
as a photographer and an artist.
03:36
(upbeat orchestral music)
03:43
In later years, I brought a powerful pair of binoculars
03:45
to the show and I began to study up close
03:47
the faces and bodies of the volunteers.
03:53
And what I discovered was something entirely different.
03:56
A reality, a touching reality.
04:00
Imperfection.
04:02
Things that you couldn't possibly see
04:04
in the illusion of the show from 50 feet away.
04:11
It just moved me.
04:14
With those binoculars in front of my face,
04:15
I realized I had discovered the perfect subject
04:17
for my exploration into the meaning of art-making.
04:26
(peaceful and meditative synthesizer music)
04:49
I tend to be drawn to opposites when they
04:52
come together in an interesting way.
05:10
And I think what was so interesting to me
05:11
was the different reality of the actual people
05:15
than the illusion of what they portrayed, and being a
05:18
portrait photographer I was so interested because
05:20
here are people who are embodying a role
05:22
but within that role they are humans.
05:33
And so these pictures are portraits of the humans.
06:09
Let me see that, one second.
06:42
Here was strangeness and convention,
06:44
beauty and the grotesque.
06:45
Here was every day life and the lofty realm of art,
06:47
all brought together.
07:05
(peaceful orchestral music)
07:18
It's what we recognize in that art that's alive,
07:22
that kind of tricks us into thinking about
07:24
what if that sculpture were alive.
07:27
What if those figures in that painting were
07:29
people that we knew living around us, interacting with us.
07:35
I think people in the audience, they want to
07:39
imagine themselves in that picture.
07:41
I think they're identifying with the representation
07:45
of a person in that painting.
07:49
I want to go into Monet's world, I want to stand
07:52
in that garden and be bathed in that sunlight.
07:56
Wouldn't it be great if we could just live in the
07:58
artist's world for just a few minutes.
08:02
The pageant encourages that every night of the summer
08:05
by saying art's here and it's there
08:08
and it's worth going to find.
08:12
Our traditional finale is Leonardo da Vinci's
08:15
The Last Supper.
08:19
What we see is the miracle of his creation.
08:23
Still living, still touching people.
08:26
(peaceful orchestral music)
08:49
What is art?
08:51
For me, anything anyone calls art is art.
08:54
Yeah, and they invited me to participate.
08:56
It's pretty exciting.
08:57
Is that a good angle for me?
08:58
Yep.
09:00
What does it feel like to be part of a work of art?
09:02
Kind of like how the show communicates the values of art
09:05
to the audience in a way that is very entertaining
09:07
and easy to take in, it's not like going to a museum.
09:11
It's a whole other kind of engagement emotionally.
09:14
Depending on my mood on any given day I can attribute
09:16
making art to a high-minded impulse to connect with others
09:19
or to understand the world, or maybe just a
09:21
narcissistic coping mechanism or a desire to be famous,
09:24
or therapy, or as my religious discipline,
09:26
or to provide a sense of control,
09:28
or a desire to surrender control.
09:30
Whatever the reason for my art-making,
09:32
an inner compulsion exists.
09:34
I continue to honor it as an internal imperative.
09:49
[Man] We'll separate with her, separate.
09:50
Oh, separate?
09:51
[Man] Separate, there you go, yeah.
09:52
As if you're holding something
09:53
but you're not bearing weight.
09:54
Okay.
09:56
[Woman] Right against me.
09:59
Any adjustments?
10:00
[Man] No, just freeze.
10:02
You'll go really fast. Fake fidgeting.
10:03
Yeah.
10:04
[Woman] We got your back.
10:05
Oh, thank you. (laughing)
10:06
[Man] Got you.
10:17
(soaring orchestral music)
10:18
Right.
10:20
Thank you.
10:22
You just show me where to be.
10:24
[Man] Seven.
10:54
(audience applauding)
10:58
[Announcer] The Pageant's traditional finale.
11:04
By Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper.
11:10
(Meditation from Thais by Massenet)
11:38
(audience applauding)
11:52
Here's some of the reasons
11:53
I think people make art.
11:55
To seek personal enjoyment and satisfaction,
11:58
to express personal thoughts and feelings
12:00
to communicate with others,
12:02
to make others see us more clearly,
12:04
to provide us with new visual experiences,
12:07
or to record a time, place, person, or object,
12:10
to reinforce cultural ties and traditions,
12:12
or to effect social change to tell stories,
12:15
maybe even to heal the sick.
12:16
People make art to adorn themselves,
12:18
to explain the unknown as an act of worship,
12:21
of course many artists make art to earn a livelihood.
12:25
Is there an evolutionary purpose to
12:27
art-making and aesthetics?
12:39
(soothing techno music)