Please join Bethel Cinema and the Connecticut Film Festival on
Wednesday, March 20th at 7 PM
for a one-time showing of
The Cardboard Bernini
Q&A with artist Jimmy Grashow and
Director: Olympia Stone
Refreshments by: Some Things Fishy Catering
"The Cardboard Bernini," examines the work and life of acclaimed artist James Grashow as he builds a giant cardboard fountain inspired by the work of the famous Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
James Grashow is an artist who has built—among many other things—giant 15 foot tall fighting men, an anthropomorphized city, and an ocean-- using paper mache, fabric, chicken wire and cardboard. But the scale of his work varies: he also makes “houseplants” that feature intricately carved homes and buildings instead of flowers in exuberant bouquets. His work has always focused on the themes of man, nature and mortality.
In his 50-plus year career, Grashow has also achieved renown as a masterful woodcutter. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he created iconic album covers for the bands Jethro Tull and The Yardbirds. He has created brilliant prints for The New York Times Op Ed page and virtually every well-known periodical and publication in the United States.
Several years ago, while visiting the home of his art dealer, Allan Stone, Grashow stumbled across some of his giant paper mache fighting men that had been put outside due to lack of space. They were disintegrating. Although it was deeply painful and shocking for Jimmy to see his work like that, it was also surprisingly beautiful. Jimmy felt that for the first time, he was seeing the full arc of his artistic enterprise before him—including its end.
Feeling that he hadn’t been honest with himself about the entire scope of his process, and the inevitable decay of works made in paper and cardboard, he challenged himself to own the “back end,” by creating a work with the intention of allowing it to disintegrate. Grashow decided that he would make a magnificent “Grashow Bernini,” and he wouldn’t skimp on any of the particulars-- it would be as richly detailed as any of his other creations intended for gallery exhibition and sale. Work on the fountain began in 2007, and was completed four years later, in 2011.
One of the sources of tension and uncertainty in the film comes from Jimmy’s wife of 42 years, Guzzy. We get a glimpse into their marriage, and what it is like to live with a working artist. As Guzzy says, “you had to get used to feast or famine.” The very fact that Jimmy can build the fountain at all is a testament to Guzzy’s support—both emotional and financial. She cries when she learns that Jimmy is going to intentionally destroy his own work—after all, his studio is in their home, and she sees the intensive effort that goes into his art every day. She says how, even though they talk about everything, she cannot discuss this project with him—“it’s too final.” Towards the end of the film, she confesses her fear that a piece of Jimmy will dissolve along with his cardboard fountain.
The “Corrugated Fountain” premiered indoors on June 11, 2010 at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, to great acclaim. The art critic Donald Kuspit wrote in Artnet “We are watching an orgy in the making, a Dionysian event tinged with Apollonian foreboding. “ After exhibiting the fountain in New York City and Pittsburgh, Jimmy finally installed his cardboard masterpiece outdoors at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, CT on April 1, 2012. It was there for a total of six weeks. When Jimmy finally installs it outside, he talks about how he was as nervous as when his kids went out on their first date. He worries about the wind blowing it over, or vandals destroying it. Thankfully, that never happened. A time-lapse camera was set up to record the decline of the fountain. After six weeks, Jimmy took his degraded cardboard fountain to the dumpster: “Ashes to ashes, mush to mush.”
Viewers will get an intimate glimpse of an artist at work on what he considers might possibly be his “final epic.” We follow Jimmy as he asks what is the point of art and creation? What is the connection between creation and destruction? And, ultimately, how do we find meaning when we are faced with mortality? By Olympia Stone
Director: Olympia Stone
Olympia is a producer, director and editor who has worked on documentaries for the Discovery Channel, A&E Networks, WGBH, MTV, and ABC. Her first independent film, "The Collector: Allan Stone’s Life in Art," was completed in 2007. It premiered at the Santa Fe Film festival as part of an “Art Matters” program and opened the “Frameworks” series at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY. Recently, Olympia has worked as a radio producer for The State of Things, a daily radio program broadcast on WUNC in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she lives. She just finished a feature-length documentary, “The Cardboard Bernini,” and is currently at work on her next documentary about the artist David Beck.