James Jean: Making Movie Posters an Art Form

For the past few years, one of my favorite artists has been James Jean.  I discovered him on Instagram (as I do with a lot of creators), and was immediately mesmerized.  I am often attracted to painters that leave me wondering how on earth they have created their work, and Jean definitely left me in that state.  His work often consists of surreal, fantastical beings, landscapes, and creatures that are meticulously detailed and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

This past year Jean has done a lot of movie “posters”.  These are no average movie posters though. Each poster looks like it could stand alone as a piece of fine art.  He created art for Blade Runner: 2020, Mother!, and even best picture winner The Shape of Water.  I enjoyed all three of these movies from a visual standpoint, so it was amazing to see Jean’s take on them.  He incorporates his own style into these works in a way that does not take away from the feel of the movie and still lets his own vision shine through.  I absolutely love his posters for the movie Mother! (even more than the movie, actually).  While I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie itself, theres no denying it had a beautiful look to it, and Jean does a great job of encapsulating that.  They are both extremely interesting in the way they juxtapose beauty and eeriness that ties with the movie so well: Jennifer Lawerence looking angelic but holding her own heart in her hand, and Javier Bardem sitting calmly in a chair while being engulfed by flames.  My favorite of the poster pieces is the Blade Runner one.  With the movie alone being visually stunning, one would wonder how Jean could do anything more.  But, with his piece he does.  I love the way he takes a distinct scene from the movie that one could very easily recognize but does it with a bit of a different set up and color scheme, as a way to make it more “fine art” like.

Jean’s movie posters are extraordinary and something I wish we saw in more advertising material for films.  Posters these days are often trite and cliche. James Jean adds new depth and character to the mundane artwork of movie posters of today.

(Image from vanityfair.com)

Playlist Poetry

Like many people, I take a lot of pride in my playlists.  It’s a great feeling when you find songs that sound delightful together, despite them being pretty different.  It’s like finding two puzzle pieces from different puzzles that somehow match up perfectly.  While I’m a total believer in listening to albums in their entirety, I also think there’s a beauty in strolling home from class listening to a combination of different sounds that you curated, kind of like your own personal life soundtrack.  So, naturally, when I was trying to think of what to write about today, I turned to my new playlist.  Its a very short, 5 song playlist, but I thought I would walk you through it, and share some new and old songs that I have completely fallen in love with.


To start off, I have a song that has been in my favorites since this summer called “Dog Years” by Maggie Rogers.  Ok, I admit, the only reason I initially listened to this song was because she has the same first name as me.  Sorry, I guess I’m vain!  But, she has become one of my new favorite artists.  Her songs blend electronic and folky sounds, two things that would not seem to fit, but somehow in her music it makes perfect sense.  I fell in love with this song initially by watching the music video.  Anyone who has spent time Up North in Michigan will totally connect with this video as she walks by lakes and through forests.  This song achieves the paradigm of being peaceful yet so incredibly free spirited at the same time.


Next, we go to a full on folk song (my jam to say the least).  I was so excited when I found this song, because I feel like I’ve spent my whole life looking for a modern Joni Mitchell type.  She’s my absolute favorite, and it seems there are very few like her today.  But the song “30” by the Weather Station perfectly encapsulated that style.  The lead singer, Tamara Lindeman, has a high and soft tone that Mitchell is so famous for, as well as her amazing ability to pack what seems like a million poetic words into a song and still not have it sound rushed or too jammed.  They are not identical to Mitchell though, they do they’re own spin on the style, and definitely differ from her with the amount of electric guitar they use.


Of course, we always need an oldie in a playlist.  I chose Simon and Garfunkel’s “A Most Peculiar Man”, the 1967 live from New York version.  I chose the live version because I lover hearing Paul Simon talk about it in the beginning; I’ve listened to it so many times that I know the words he speaks before hand as if they were lyrics in the song.  This song is just perfectly sweet and melancholy. There’s beautiful guitars and harmonies, and Simon’s lyrics are completely enticing, as always.  Enough said!


José González has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and when I realized he had a new EP out this year, I was ecstatic.  The song “Afterglow (with the Brite Lites)” is my favorite of his new songs.  All of his music, especially on this new EP, is incredibly rich and layered, with many guitar and singing tracks that create beautifully haunting harmonies.  Its hard to describe why I love his music so much, but I just feel like it has a heavenly aura that I absolutely love.


I always like to finish it off with an instrumental.  So lastly, we have “Sunflower River Blues” by John Fahey.  I really have no idea how I came across this song, but it is perfection.  I just love the simplicity of a person and their guitar, and how just that can make a complex song.

If you would like to listen to this playlist click the link below and enjoy.  Or, take a good 30 minutes to make your own playlist that is the musical definition of you.


90th Academy Awards

While the Academy Awards are full of showy moments and cringeworthy jokes, I do love seeing great filmmaking rightfully recognized.  Last night was the 90th Oscars, and there were a lot of historic moments that made it feel like a milestone in the award.

There were a lot of firsts in the nominees and winners at yesterdays ceremony. Timothee Chalamet, the amazing 22 year old actor from the break out independent film Call Me by Your Name, had the opportunity to be the youngest Best Actor winner ever by quite a bit, with the current youngest being Adrien Brody, who won for The Pianist at 29.  Another potential record breaker was Greta Gerwig, writer and director of Lady Bird.  Her nomination alone was a first, being the only woman ever to be nominated for her directorial debut, and if she won she would’ve been the second woman to win this honor (the only one is Kathryn Bigelow who won in 2010).  Unfortunately, neither of these talents ended up winning, but it is hard to be too disappointed, because there were still a lot of amazing, historical wins.  Jordan Peele triumphed over the Best original screenplay category, being the first African American writer to ever win.  For best Adapted Screenplay, James Ivory became the oldest person ever to win an Oscar, at an astounding 89 years of age for Call Me by Your Name!  Roger Deakins has been “cursed” in a sense and has gotten a grand total of 13 nominations for Best Cinematography but has never won.  Luckily, this year he broke his streak, taking home the Oscar for Blade Runner 2049, his 14th nomination.

While there were a lot of great moments when handing out the oscars, with the plethora of first time occurrences, there were some meaningful moments in the speeches.  With an obvious highlight on the “Time’s Up” movement, many people had things to say about women in the film industry.  The fiery and delightfully weird Francis McDormand gave an empowering speech and ended it by saying “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider”.  An inclusion rider is something that actors and actresses can put into their contracts that guarantees racial and gender equality on the set of movies. Adding this to her speech definitely added awareness among people not in the movie industry.  I personally didn’t know what it meant, so I googled it right when she said it, as I’m sure many people all over the world did.  Another powerful speech was Guillermo del Toro.  While giving the Best Picture speech  Del Toro stated the following: “I am an immigrant the greatest thing our art does and our industry does is to erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper”.  Del Torro, who was born in Mexico, won both Best Director and Best Picture.  With his wins, along with Coco winning best animated and Chile’s A Fantastic Woman winning Best Foreign Film, it was an all around beautifully triumphant night for Latin America.

Overall, I enjoy watching the Oscars.  I love seeing the little videos they make of clips from legendary movies throughout the years, I love seeing the emotions of the winners, and I love seeing the celebration of beautiful films.  While it is often cheesy and about an hour too long, for a film buff, its just something you can’t miss.    

Papayas and Almond Milk


Gluten Freedom, 2017 Chloe Wise (chloewise.com)

Instagram can sometimes be a completely depressing cesspool of garbage and an unnecessary distraction that takes up far too much of ones time.  However, there are those rare occasions that you will find a page that is a true gem: something that is actually artistically inspiring.  In these instances, Instagram can basically become an exhibit of an artist’s best work.  My new favorite artist that I discovered on Instagram is Chloe Wise.

Wise is a Canadian sculptor, painter, collage artist, and digital artist.  No matter what medium she is working in, I find her work to be visually interesting.  They make you want to reach out and touch the piece.  She is well known for her hyper realistic sculptures of food, but my first exposure to Wise’s work was to her portraits.  As someone who does a lot of portraiture myself, I was really interested in how unique and comical they are.  Most of her portraits are large full body paintings of women holding some kind of food; furthermore, the food always has a meaning behind it, whether it be a woman cradling a carton of almond milk as a way to satirize societies obsession with healthy eating, or a woman holding an abundance of fresh and exotic fruit as a way to examine class.  She uses these mundane and recognizable items to ultimately tackle important themes.

Something that I feel adds a comedic element to her paintings is how classically and beautifully they are crafted.  Her use of food really brings to mind the works of still life artists like Caravaggio, specifically in the way that the food looks extremely fresh and desirable to the viewer.  The style in which she paints her women is very classic as well: them in stylistic poses and looking directly at the viewer.  While a classic portraiture of women (mostly painted by men) would have a female subject staring at a male viewer to intrigue them, Wise has a much different idea about this subject.  “I present each woman as powerful and aware of her own power, and I intend to subvert the male gaze by satirizing it,” she stated in a Vouge Paris interview when questioned what she wants to get across to her viewers through the depiction of women.  This combination of old style with random modern fashion, food, and objects, as well as the meaning behind the work is something that completely tickles me every time I view her art.

Look, I know Instagram is a place where you can zone out and entertain your eyes for a bit, but maybe next time you log on, spend a few less seconds stalking your crush or looking at some chicks selfies, and try to find a stimulating artist that you truly enjoy.  Fill up your feed with things that inspire you and make you want to create.  Trust me, its much healthier and far more refreshing than seeing Kim K’s new pink hair.

An Unprecedented Presidential Portrait

Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait, as posted on Kehinde Wiley’s Instagram page (@kehindewiley)

It is very rare that we see paintings make a big wave in social media the way that other art like films and music get recognized.  Works by painters won’t ensue much online chatter, retweets or Instagram posts when he or she first unveils them. However, this past week, we saw this happen with Barack Obama’s official portrait.  The former president had personally chosen New York based painter, Kehinde Wiley, for his portrait.  Wiley is known for his grand paintings featuring African-American men and women, combining modernly dressed figures juxtaposed by surroundings inspired by the Rococo Period (from the late eighteenth century) such as floral patterns.  This striking juxtaposition of new and old mixed with the masterfulness in which he creates his figures create rich and beautiful pieces that have rightfully made him a well-known modern artist.  Having been a fan of Wiley’s work ever since I saw his a few of his pieces at the Detroit Institute of Art, and subsequently learning more about him in my studies, I was excited to hear the name of an artist I recognized when the painter of the newest portrait was announced.  When the painting was revealed, I was not surprised at all that I loved it.  While Wiley may not have gone as extreme and extravagant on this piece as he has on others, this portrait was still extremely striking.  I especially love that Obama is sitting in a rather serious position that commands attention and respect, yet he is surrounded by flowers and leaves.  I feel it shows a humanness that is truly beautiful.  After this painting was released, I was curious what the presidential portraits of the past looked like.  As I looked back through them, I mostly saw a sea of muddy colors. Many of the pieces looked nearly identical—the president staring off into the distance making some grand pose. While many of these works were beautifully crafted, there is no denying that they are repetitive and a bit boring compared to the newest dynamic edition.  If Obama’s goal was to be the piece that catches your eye first, he has definitely succeeded. Although some may think it lacks the traditions that the portraits of the past have had, it seems that may be a good thing. These portraits should mirror the style of their time to provide the viewer with the most accurate experience if they look at it years down the line.  Overall, as an art student, it was really inspiring to see an old art form such as painting make such a big wave with so many people today.