WONDER: The Sequel


Yesterday, I went to see Rise of the Guardians with my daughter, who is twelve. This was payback for my dragging her to Life of Pi (she later thanked me), as per our negotiated settlement.

While both movies were visually stunning, I’m dedicating this post to the art directors and animators of Rise of the Guardians , which was pure eye candy from beginning to end. Normally, I dread these super-action-packed-giant-eyed-car-chase-fiery-explosion-evil-monster-beaten-by-high-moral-espousing-little-girl epics, and chomp popcorn in direct proportion to my mounting restlessness. (Put some butter in the middle, too, please.)

This movie, however, had me swooning. I melted into a nine-year-old, oohing and gasping at the insanely detailed surfaces of everything in sight. Confession: I hold two degrees in textiles and am arguably obsessed with cool textures and sparkly surfaces (an ex referred to this as a “glitter disorder”, but I prefer to think of it as having the ability to appreciate texture). After my eyes were super-sensitized my freshman year in art school, I could look at a piece of plywood and think I was hallucinating; its swirling concentric patterns absorbed and fascinated me. Then, I grew up, started making art for a living, became a mother, and got a little busy. The phrase “take time to smell the flowers” generally just pisses me off.

Yet Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman actually slowed me down to child-like daydream speed, a welcome change. Rise of the Guardians could be called Festival of Surfaces and Materials and Everything That is Amazing to Look At If You Are Fortunate Enough To Have The Gift Of Sight. From the dimensional stitched pattern on Santa’s sweater to the mosaic tiled floors and walls of the “tooth castle” (where all rescued children’s teeth are kept in tiny bejeweled boxes), I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Santa has a beard? Let’s show every glorious strand, with highlights and lowlights. Unlike reality TV, every frame was specific, designed, done on purpose. I didn’t even mind the toddlers yammering away in front of me.

And, best of all, both the good AND evil characters were primarily iterated in GLITTER, as if God was telling me that it’s safe to go to the movies again: the bar has been officially and irretrievably raised. I’m going back to see this movie in 3D, so the Gold Glitter of Goodness can rain upon my head and swirl around me more thoroughly. In fact, I’m going to see it in every D available.

(Just to be clear, the plot lines and morals were all good and valuable as well, but that’s not what will get more dollars to jump out of my wallet like flying fish.)


As I watched Jack Frost draw gorgeous frost patterns with a stick on anything and everything he whizzed by, I remembered growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, surrounded by trees coated in glassy ice that shone in the streetlights and turned my neighborhood into Narnia. I remembered holding red and gold leaves up to the sun to reveal their veiny skeletons and become little flags of fire. I played for hours with leaves, arranging them by color and making “rooms” with them in my backyard. And ice…oh ice. I used to love walking home from school on it, in the spring, pushing the water out from underneath its bubbly glass with my steps. It was worth one or two sprained ankles – it was wonder in action. And I remembered that these things ultimately led me to be an artist. Now, the same alchemy I wondered about as a child drives my every move in the studio.

Which brings me to my realization about some of the things that comprise the roots of creative empowerment:

1)  Wonder precludes creativity.

Creativity is inquiry, or responses to inquiry, or both. We see something, we wonder about it, we respond to it or exploit it. We ask, we answer. Art is always a response to something. In our high-octane, quick-cut culture we do forget to sit and say, “Huh. That’s amazing. What is that? I never saw that before. What can I do with that?”

It’s a new year. Take time for some appreciation of the little things, and the “little” questions that lead to big things, like, what is the source of my curiosity? What do I wonder about? I call this an “adult kid question.” Ask this question in your office or studio. Ask this question at the grocery store. Ask this question of your children! Play with your food. Toss some glitter onto some wet glue. Follow an instinct out of sheer curiosity. Wander the temple that is Home Depot.

2)  Creativity is about opportunity.

The makers of this film took every opportunity to make art. Every surface, object, or special effect was an excuse for embellishment and pure invention. Marching to rescue all the dreams and hopes of the world’s children, zillions of Easter eggs get coated in wondrous poofs of pigment. Then, because they can , get dipped in a river of luminescent coating that renders them lustrous, proud, and even more righteous. Second coat. Why not?  I only wished Jack Frost had slowed down a bit so I could soak in his fabulous work a little longer. He even had a hoodie that featured a cool embroidery pattern that was retro-frosty-cool. I want one. Target, are you listening?

Rise of the Guardians is so beautiful that it stars Jude Law and Alec Baldwin and you don’t even need to see them. And it’s so engaging I didn’t even need popcorn. Next time, I’m going to see it on an empty stomach, and I will leave full and happy.

Thank you, thank you, voracious art directors and animators! You remind me that art is opportunity itself: every dresser top can be a shrine, every clothing choice a “second skin,” every earring a celebration. My day is a beaded necklace of alternating tasks and delights, all of my own design. From here on, I vow to appreciate the frost on my windshield before destroying it with a credit card. It’s a rare treat in Arizona!

What surface will you embellish today?

Happy Gazing!



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