I recently watched “Big Eyes” and was pleasantly surprised with the film.
This movie was so different than I thought it would be (in a good way.) I’m not sure what I expected, but I found this film to be really interesting on different levels.
First, as an artist, it was so difficult to watch someone so talented give away her power like Margaret Keane did, a statement on what things were like for women even as recent as 50 years ago. I’m not sure young women today always understand that. (And in a way, that’s good. I’m glad young women have no idea what us oldies are talking about with women’s marches and raising our voices.)
It was also an interesting story in terms of art marketing. Really, would she have been noticed on the same level for her brilliance had her husband not been such a pushy, attention-seeking dude? Probably not. The movie hints at this, showing a gallery owner in the early part of the film say the paintings had no merit.
I also liked the focus on art licensing. The Keane’s were pioneers of understanding that some people just want an image and aren’t as concerned with an original painting. Recognizing this piece of their buyer’s market helped propel them to success. I wonder if they had just focused on paintings if these images would have become so popular for so many different people. I really related to this piece of the story, in that, I also like to paint smaller images that anyone can buy if they want an original, and I also like offering the prints for people who want multiple images or to give them as gifts.
Mostly, I came away with an appreciation for this artist, which I did not fully appreciate until now. I remember some of these big eye images on cardboard prints in the 60s, and I remember complaining to my grandma that I didn’t like them. I told her they made me sad, and they did. As a kid, I had my own issues with sadness and seeing these images, which I do feel evoke sadness, was too much for me.
As an adult, I have an appreciation for them, and specifically for how Margaret Keane stayed with what she loved and continued to paint throughout her life. As I write this, she is 90 and still painting. I loved hearing that.
Also, these images have started other movements in pop culture. On her website it says “Margaret has created a legacy of Big Eyes influencing many toy designs and cartoons, such as Little Miss No Name Dolls, Blythe dolls the cartoon Powerpuff Girls, created by Craig McCracken. And more recently numerous illustrators, New Contemporary and Pop Surrealism artist such as, Yoshitomo Nara, Mark Ryden, and Tim Burton.” I agree.
If you haven’t seen Big Eyes yet, I recommend it.