New York's Museum of Modern Art is hosting a retrospective for Tim Burton that spans the artist's career so far, from doodles on paper, Polaroids, sketches, full-blown paintings, sculptures, and, of course, movies. The MoMA will be showing 14 of his films, and Burton himself curated a collection of films that inspired him, aptly titled "The Lurid Beauty of Monsters." Burton was on hand to talk to the press, comparing his joy at the show to "an out-of-body experience." He said, "In my life, I've had many surreal, great things happen -- meeting my idol, Vincent Price; being able to make movies; and this one, I think, tops it in the sense that it's the most amazing and surreal, and that's what you look for in life, is these great and incredible [experiences]."
The MoMA's Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, worked feverishly to uncover work from the artist's 27-year career, even touring his house to find art for the show. Burton also created seven new statues for the exhibit.
The show opens November 22nd and ends April 26th, 2010. You can see a selection of the art on display in the gallery below.
Cinematical: What's the most personal piece in the collection for you?
Tim Burton: Well, it could be any of a number because I noticed the ones that freaked me out so much that I can't look at, which is a lot of it, I think it's a lot of that early stuff. Stuff that I didn't even know I had. I don't even know where they found some of that really early stuff. 'Cause it's, as they [Ron Magliozzi and Jenny He] pointed out, it was all just kind of personal and private, so there's a lot of that in there. Mainly, the early stuff, I'd say. Stuff that – I don't know where you actually found stuff that I actually got decent grades on! Because I don't remember that at all! [Laughs]
When did you start putting your archives together?
Tim Burton: I never consciously did that. I was never that organized a person. I think what ended up happening was I started making films and stuff and my assistants and people would try to -- 'cause I just throw stuff [aside] and don't look at it -- so they'd try to at least put it in a drawer or boxes and stuff and then when [the curators] came out, I can't remember what state they found stuff [in], they certainly helped sort of organize it and focus it and that was the first time I'd ever seen some stuff since I was a child. So it was amazing and disturbing. [Laughs]
Your subjects tend to be these sympathetic monsters. What is it about them that attracts you?
Tim Burton: It's just those things that, you know, dig into you as a child. That thing that Jenny was saying, they spoke to that side of me which didn't [fit in]... Society has a way of putting you into a category, and for some reason early on I was deemed as sort of strange, which I didn't feel strange, but you get that label for so many years and you start to believe it. And those movies kind of helped, [as far as] psychology, catharsis to explore and understand feeling like those characters, feeling like, well, you look strange and people think you're strange, but you're not, you have emotion and depth. You know, like anything, like anybody else. So they were, you know, it was a combination of that and the environment, the kind of lack of weather and culture [of Burbank, CA] that drew you into these kinds of worlds, for me, anyway.
Did you ever feel a lot of pressure to change your aesthetic as you were growing up, or were people recognizing that you were talented?
Tim Burton: It's something I'll never, ever forget, because it was very important, because I specifically remember at that age where, you know, all kids like drawing and everybody draws... I remember seeing it, and you see it today -- you go to kids' schools and there's pretty much a dynamic where at a certain stage everybody that likes to draw, they've got something. And I just recall, in school, as I went through the years, by the time kids were about 10, you know, [someone] would go, "Oh, why don't you draw?" "Well, I can't draw." It's because, I felt, people were trying to pigeonhole them, and it happened to me too. And actually not until I went to CalArts, where I got so frustrated because it was like, Well, I can't draw like this, and I can't draw like that, okay, I've had a mind-blowing experience. I was at a farmer's market and we were in a class sketching thing, and thought, I can't do this, I can't draw like they want me to draw, and I literally felt like my mind expand. I'd never felt this before, it was weird. There were no drugs or anything else involved, but it was just like [exploding noise]. And from that point on, I didn't care, and I just said, I'm just gonna do whatever, and it really... It didn't make me a great artist or drawer but it just made me do my own thing, and you know, I was lucky enough to have a couple of teachers that promoted, if you like something, go for it, and just do it, and be passionate about it, and you've got a lot going for you if you do that, so I was lucky to fight. Because I think if I listened to them, I'd be mostly like everybody else. "Well, I can't do that, I can't do that."
Cinematical: What do you think about 3D? Is it the future of movies?
Tim Burton: The future? I don't think it's a fad any more. One of the reasons I wanted to do Alice [in 3D] is just I thought Alice and 3D was a good mixture of mediums. And also technology has gotten to a place where it doesn't give you a splitting migraine headache to watch the movies like you used to [laughs] not long ago, so it's actually become a much more streamlined thing, and for me, with the right material, it draws you into the world a bit more. So it's just another element to try bring it in more, which is great. So I think it's here to stay to some degree; I don't know overall, necessarily, but I don't think it's a fad.
Would you say that drawings or art can do some things that movie can't?
Tim Burton: Well, I know for me they can do a lot because I don't have to listen to a lot of executives [makes yapping gesture with hands], so yeah, it gives me a sense of peace and quiet, and also for me not being a very verbal person, I communicated a lot... or even with myself by doing a drawing, [it would] help understand a little something. So for me it was quite therapeutic and cathartic, and you know, sometimes it's a seed of a thing in a film, and sometimes not, but that starts there.
What's the latest on Alice?
Tim Burton: Still working on it! [Laughs] In fact, I shouldn't be here right now. We've got a lot of work to do.