EPISODE: "Stories"

From "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 2 (2003)

About

The artists profiled in “Stories” tell tales—autobiographical, fictional, satirical, or fantastical—through architecture, literature, mythology, fairytales, and history. These artists provoke us to think about our own stories, the characters and caricatures, the morals and messages that define our real and imagined lives. Filmed on location in São Paolo, Brazil; New York, New York; Saratoga Springs, New York; [foundry], New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Seoul, South Korea; Seattle Washington; Houston, Texas; and Dallas, Texas.

Created by Charles Atlas, the opening for Stories is a gloss on the classic “Masterpiece Theater” host introduction. Filmmaker John Waters greets the audience dressed for the part in a checkered smoking jacket and surrounded by his extensive collection of art books in his Baltimore home. “Good art provokes and inspires,” declares Waters. For Waters, “a strong reaction” is an important measure of success. “Not everyone likes the stories I tell,” Waters modestly remarks.

"The illusion is that most of my work is simply about past events, a point in history and nothing else," says Kara Walker about her subversive use of the traditional silhouette technique. The segment traces the evolution of Walker's work, from time spent in the studio to the artist's recent installations of projected light. "A lot of what I was wanting to do in my work and what I have been doing has been about the unexpected...that unexpected situation of wanting to be the heroine and yet wanting to kill the heroine at the same time." Projecting fiction into fact, Walker's art upsets the conventions of history and storytelling.

"Basically, I think art is just a way to think," remarks Kiki Smith, "it’s like standing in the wind and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go." Adept in bronze, wax, textiles, and printmaking, the segment follows Smith on a journey through a diversity of narrative subjects including witches, saints, death, animals, family members, domestic objects, and dolls. Smith explains her relationship to meaning in her work: "I’d rather make something that’s very open-ended that can have a meaning to me, but then it also can have a meaning to somebody else who can fill it up with their meaning."

Do-Ho Suh is filmed painting outside his childhood home. "Once my fortune teller told me that I have five horses and that means that I travel a lot," says Suh, illuminating the concept behind the artist's transportable fabric sculpture "Seoul Home/L.A. Home..." Themes of homesickness, public and private space, military conflict, conformity and difference, and art's relationship to architecture are touched on by Suh as he installs an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and travels between his life and studio in New York and a life full of memory and family ties in Seoul, South Korea.

"In my work I feel I’m finally being able to bring together the worlds of comic book narratives and the history of abstraction," comments Trenton Doyle Hancock. Hancock's drawings, installations, paintings tell the epic story of a group of mythical creatures called Mounds. While developing the most recent installment of his story, Hancock explains that his newest series of allegorical paintings are "colorful blasts of energy or communication from Mounds, these visions of hope. So in a way it's like God’s promise with the rainbow after the flood."