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Peeks and Piques!

ART TIMES Apr, 2004

I HAVE NEVER been much of a movie-goer — contending with the run-of-the-mill illusions of "real" life is usually more than enough for me to handle — but I’ve recently seen two films on successive nights, "The Scandal Behind Art Restoration," and "Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey." Both are documentaries — the first screened on November 11th at the Village East Cinemas in NYC, and the second, on March 3rd at the National Arts Club, also in NYC. Both, as their titles make obvious, are about art, and both, in my estimation, noteworthy films, the only "illusions" dealt with, those inherent in all art. Since I saw "Scandal" first, let me begin with this film. Pettijohn Productions was kind enough to send me a video of the film since I was unable to attend the "premiere," and, non-movie-goer though I continue to be, was pleased that they took the trouble. "Scandal," a James Aviles Martin film, tells the story behind ArtWatch International, a watchdog organization founded by Professor James Beck (Columbia University) that has been tracking and monitoring the art restoration practices of institutions around the world. This largely behind-the-scene and — at least to the average layman — arcane business of art restoration — as "scientific" as one might suppose it to be — is, according to ArtWatch International, anything but scientific, but rather a hodge-podge of half- and crack-brained experimenting by people who, in the final analysis, know little or nothing about the real "stuff" of art. "Scandal" takes the viewer on an around-the-world trip to see just who has been doing what to some of mankind’s greatest treasures — all, often, in the name of "progress" — progress, that is, as seen by the corporate sponsors who foot the bill for all resultant publicity and who know more about bottom lines than about art. With its riveting "before-and-after" images and lively dialogue with Professor Beck, Michael Daley (journalist and illustrator for London’s The Guardian), artist/teacher Frank Mason, Ken Shulman (correspondent for Art News), Alexander Eliot (former editor of Time Magazine) and others, this 90-minute film offers an eye-opening look into the business of art restoration. Anyone interested in art — and in its preservation — ought to take the time to see "The Scandal Behind Art Restoration." (The next public viewing will be on April 16 at 8pm at The Salmagundi Club, NYC. Further information about ArtWatch International can be found at www.ArtWatchInternational.org.) The second film, "Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey" is not only a labor of love by its producer, Dianne B. Bernhard, but a fascinating look into the life and mind of one of America’s foremost and best-loved portrait artists. Filled with vintage images of New York City and the Art Students League where Kinstler once taught, the film takes us back to the artist’s early years as a comic-book inker, through a life of dedication to art and, ultimately, to his mature years as portrait painter of many of America’s icons — John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Tom Wolfe, Alan Shepard, Gerald Ford (and four other U.S. Presidents), to name but a handful of the over 500 portraits that he has been commissioned to paint. Observations and comments by many of his sitters — but especially those made by Kinstler himself — offer vivid commentary to a visually-rich document that will stand as a lasting testimony to one of our finest painters. It is a rare pleasure to see living artists given proper recognition, and kudos are due to the filmmaker Colin Russell, Bernhard’s Art Spirit Foundation, and all the others who helped make this film possible. (Information about "Everett Raymond Kinstler: An Artist’s Journey" can be obtained by visiting The Art Spirit Foundation website at www.artspiritfoundation.org.)

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