Jackie Dives' Favourite Art Movies
“As a storyteller myself, I appreciate the stories of other women that I can relate to. Movies are one of my ways to relax, and also get inspired.” – Jackie Dives
Right now, everyone is spending more time at home as we practice social distancing and self-isolation. While this is a challenging time, it can also be an opportunity to relax and enjoy learning more about the things we care about, and come away refreshed and inspired.
For BAF resident artist Jackie Dives, movies about other female artists are the perfect stories to dive into during this extra downtime. Read on for fifteen movies about women artists, from documentaries to biopics, and links to where you can find them to rent, buy or stream online.
1. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012, Dir. Matthew Akers)
This feature-length documentary film follows the artist as she prepares for what may be the most important moment of her life: a major retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. To be given a retrospective at one of the world’s premiere museums is, for any living artist, the most exhilarating sort of milestone. For Marina, it is far more – it is the chance to finally silence the question she has been hearing over and over again for four decades: ‘But why is this art? (IMDB)
2. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (2016, Dir. Errol Morris)
Portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman found her medium in 1980: the larger-than-life Polaroid Land 20×24 camera. For the next thirty-five years she captured the “surfaces” of those who visited her Cambridge, Massachusetts studio: families, Beat poets, rock stars, and Harvard notables. As pictures begin to fade and her retirement looms, Dorfman gives Errol Morris an inside tour of her backyard archive. (bsidefilm.com)
3. Alice Neel (2007, Dir. Andrew Neel)
The life and work of Alice Neel (1900-1984), American portrait painter. Part of the film’s narration is chronological, and part consists of interviews with friends, other artists, scholars, and family members, her two sons, Richard and Hartley, and the filmmaker himself, Neel’s grandson. The film also includes footage of Neel herself later in life, painting, talking, appearing on television, and giving lectures. Throughout the movie, we see her paintings, bold, frank, and direct. After years of poverty and obscurity, fame finally came to Alice Neel when she was nearly 70. (IMDB)
4. The Woodmans (2011, Dir. Scott Willis)
The Woodmans are a family of well-known artists bonded in their belief of art-making as the highest form of expression. But for their daughter Francesca — one of the late 20th century’s most recognized and influential photographers — fame came only after a tragedy that would forever scar the family. With unrestricted access to all of Francesca’s photographs, private diaries and experimental videos, The Woodmans traces the story of a family broken and then healed by their art.
Where to watch it: This one is obscure, and was hard to find! It’s available on American Netflix or Fandor on Amazon Prime.
5. Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson (2015, Dir. Michelle Boyaner)
Packed in a Trunk is the story of artist Edith Lake Wilkinson, who was committed to an asylum in 1924. All her worldly possessions were packed into trunks and shipped to a relative in West Virginia where they sat in an attic for 40 years. Edith’s great-niece, Emmy Award winning writer and director Jane Anderson, grew up surrounded by Edith’s paintings, thanks to her mother who had gone poking through that dusty attic and rescued Edith’s work. The film follows Jane in her decades-long journey to find the answers to the mystery of Edith’s buried life, return the work to Provincetown and have Edith’s contributions recognized by the larger art world. (IMDB)
6. Camille Claudel (1988, Dir. Bruno Nuytten)
7. Maudie (2017, Dir. Aisling Walsh)
This biographical drama tells the story of folk artist Maude Lewis, who lived and painted in Nova Scotia. The film shows Maud struggling with arthritis, the memory of a lost child, and a family that doubts her artistic ability. She eventually moves in as a housekeeper with the eccentric and reclusive Everett Lewis. As Maude rises to surprising fame, they fall in love despite their often clashing personalities. The film was shot in Newfoundland and Labrador, and for its filming, a replica was constructed of their famously tiny house. (Wikipedia)
8. Frida (2002, Dir. Julie Taymor)
Produced by and starring Salma Hayek, this film charts Frida Kahlo’s life from feisty schoolgirl, to Diego Rivera protégée, to world-renowned artist in her own right. We follow Kahlo’s upbringing in Mexico City, and her nurturing relationship with her parents. Having already suffered the crippling effects of polio, Kahlo sustains further injuries when a city bus accident nearly ends her life. But in her bed-ridden state, she produces dozens upon dozens of pieces; when she recovers, she presents them to the legendary — and legendarily temperamental — Rivera, who takes her under his wing as an artist, a political revolutionary, and, inevitably, a lover. But their relationship is fraught with trouble, as the philandering Rivera traverses the globe painting murals, and Kahlo languishes in obscurity, longing to make her mark on her own. (Rotten Tomatoes)
9. Finding Vivian Maier (2013, Dir. John Maloof, Charlie Siskel)
Now considered one of the 20th century’s greatest street photographers, Vivian Maier was a mysterious nanny who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that went unseen during her lifetime. Since buying her work by chance at auction, amateur historian John Maloof has crusaded to put this prolific photographer in the history books. This film reveals Maier’s strange and riveting life and art through never-before-seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her. (Rotten Tomatoes)
10. Séraphine (2008, Dir. Marin Provost)
Belgian actress Yolande Moreau headlines this biopic about a little-known but uncommonly brilliant painter. Frenchwoman Séraphine Louis (Moreau), aka Séraphine de Senlis, lived from 1864 to 1942. Though ostensibly a housekeeper whose chief duties involved cooking, cleaning, and ironing, in her off-hours Séraphine joyously turned to the natural world, where she felt a tremendous emotional and spiritual communion. Séraphine channeled these passions through painting, and, having only the scantest materials at hand, created paints from elements such as animal blood, oil from church candles, and dirt. With these crude and raw tools, the nascent, budding artist created tableaux of floral arrangements utterly unlike any seen before. Sadly, those around Séraphine perceived the paintings as coarse and unimpressive – until her life took a most fantastic turn, when a German art critic, turned up in her hometown. (Rotten Tomatoes)
11. Carrington (1995, Dir. Christopher Hampton)
12. Eva Hesse (2016, Dir. Marcie Begleiter)
Eva Hesse is one of America’s foremost postwar artists. Her pioneering sculptures using latex, fiberglass, and plastics, helped establish the post-minimalist movement. Hesse died of a brain tumor at just 34, but despite its brevity, her decade-long career is dense with complex, intriguing works that defy easy categorization. The first feature-length appreciation of Hesse’s life and work, this documentary makes superb use of the artist’s voluminous journals, her correspondence with close friend and mentor Sol LeWitt, and contemporary as well as archival interviews with fellow artists like Richard Serra, Robert Mangold, and Dan Graham who recall her passionate, ambitious, tenacious personality.
The documentary captures her talent and positive qualities, but also the psychic struggles of an artist who, in the downtown New York art scene of the 1960s, was one of the few women to make work that was taken seriously in a field dominated by male pop artists and minimalists. (Rotten Tomatoes)
14. Everlasting Moments (2008, Dir. Jan Troell)
15. Georgia O’Keeffe (2009, Dir. Bob Balaban)