School Trip – Tim Burton Exhibition

One of the key learning experiences at the Brooklyn Free School, is the constant and frequent excursions into the city. Everything from exploring the river coastline, walking through an old cemetery, visiting a studio or visiting the many exhibitions at the multitude of museums. Occasionally, I opt to join them on one of these jaunts, usually when it coincides with my own interest.

The last trip I went on was a few years ago to the Pixar exhibit at MOMA which resulted in me buying a 1 year artist pass, and returning to the museum a few more times over the course of the year. This time, MOMA has done it again with a retrospective on the work of Tim Burton.

Mr. Burton has always been a family favorite. My son quickly became an avid fan at 5 asking to see the entire Tim Burton catalog. We have seen every movie he has made with the exception of his worst film, Planet of the Apes.

I must say the museum did a wonderful job. There were many of his early sketches from college. Many of his story conceptions for his animations and early directorial efforts. With the help of his close friend, Rick Heinrichs, there were sculptural representations of many of his ideas. Some that never made it to film. Many, that were used like: Oogy Boogy, from Nightmare Before Christmas, all of Jack Skeleton’s heads, Beetlejuice as a snake head, robots from Edward Scissorhands, Batman cowls, models from Corpse Bride, props from Mars Atacks! and the list goes on and on.

There are a multitude of sketches for movies and unrealized film ideas. Many with written notes on how he wanted a scene to be shot. Much of this was reminiscent to my own life as I too have a multitude of early drawings which can explain how I arrived at my current style. But I must admit, Tim was definitely more focused then me. I was impressed with the energy that he put into every piece. You can see the idea racing through his mind and getting his hand to catch up with his head. I loved seeing his conceptions for The Penguin in the second Batman film. All of his drawings have a serious cartoonist hand at work (he did work for Disney.) Many of these drawings were never meant to stand as museum pieces. Much of the work was executed on scraps of paper, not archival, and some of it already beginning to yellow. Tim himself said that this show made him nervous, because much of this was private and intimate, and was never intended to see the light of day. But on the other hand, it tells a really great story about a very public career. One in which many of us have been able to see on screen.

The kids got a big kick out of the 3D material all around. The show is abundant. So it was interesting to hear one of the young girls exclaim to us as we got to the end “David, this show is starting to get boring!” Interesting how the show, which was so exciting for them, got SUDDENLY boring. But this is how it goes.

The truth is, when David (teacher) asked if I wanted to stay in the museum and stroll around, I opted to return to school with the children. It has been my observation, that more than an hour or two in a museum is more than enough. Here we were, looking at 30 years of a mans’ life in the span of an hour. At that point, my back begins to hurt, I want to sit down and eat something, and yeah, it starts to get boring, because in truth, I am now flooded with impressions, and I need to digest what I have seen.

I once observed while walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that my body began to feel very heavy after two hours. I realized that I was experiencing thousands of years of art, in a concentrated period. I had gone from ancient tombs and sarcophagi to 17th and 18th century painting to modern art in a matter of steps. No wonder I felt like I was carrying a block of granite on my back. So what this young girl was expressing, was essentially truth.

All in all it was a worthy excursion, and I hope to get a second look before the show closes. My only criticism is that it is crowded, which makes for viewing any art, difficult. And MOMA is not cheap. At $20 bucks a head  (children free) this it not for the lower classes, and the lack of diversity in the crowds is apparent. I believe we had the ONLY dark faces in the entire place, with the exception of the security staff. And that is a crying shame. That ordinary people cannot afford to come and enjoy, and learn from the creative expression that is taking place in their own culture. Somehow, this needs to be brought to the attention of the museum, if it hasn’t already.

But I will go back. I will blend into the milky white crowds, that sip lattes, eat croissants and wax on intelligently about things they can hardly understand, and I will stand tall among them. Because I have looked behind the veil. And I understand, and live the root of creativity. And that is something that the entitled masses can never take away. I highly recommend getting to see this show. You will not regret it.

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One Comment on “School Trip – Tim Burton Exhibition”

  1. Diane Zeines says:

    Sounds like a great time. And, by the way, I think MOMA has a free night on Wednesdays. But I know what you mean about the fancy-dancy crowds that go to these museums. Museums really should be for the masses so you’ve got to check out when the free nights are. I know they have them but you have to be your own detective about that.


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