Monday, October 31, 2011

Raymond Was Born in Hollywood

Alfred Eaker has concocted a strange and lovingly disjointed documentary about Raymond, called simply Thunder-Sky.  Which probably is the only way to do it:  Raymond's significance really does not come from his status as an "outsider artist," as much as his unique self-created persona, his self-imposed and beautifully freaky monarchy over a universe of buildings being built and buildings being destroyed.  The drawings are simply evidence of his reign.  In other words, "art" and "life" were never fully compartmentalized in Raymond's psyche and practice; in fact he seemed hell-bent on blending them into a cement-and-cotton-candy dream-world only he could tell us about.

We screened it Thursday night at Bromwell's Gallery, asking for criticisms and corrections.  And we truly got some insightful, wonderful ways to make it better.  It was as if everyone in the room were completely invested in making sure Raymond's life story is conveyed with as much style and class as possible. 

Eaker's movie is high-style at points (beautiful animation done by Todd M. Coe is kind of like the movie's "tent poles," offering a funky, psychedelic structure to the ongoing talking-heads-ness; a great ongoing motif involving the items Raymond collected in his toolboxes also helps to shape the narrative), and a little too campy in others (those weird clown vignettes really do need to go).  Sometimes the interviews get redundant (he focuses too much, I think, on Bill and me), and I think he may want to revisit having Thunder-Sky family friend Larry Higdon more in the spotlight, as his voice/demeanor/gentlemanliness as he speaks about Raymond really is arresting and actually made me cry.

No matter what though I just wanted to tell Alfred and his cohorts how much I appreciate all the work they have done.  I know I'll never completely understand all the hard work and many hours that have gone into making this movie, but I do appreciate the final result:  you've taken subject matter that is very hard to comprehend and fashioned it into a funhouse mirror world of reflection and celebration.

Thank you very much.

Raymond was born in Hollywood.  Having a movie made about his life only seems like the next step in his evolution.