This past Thursday we had the pleasure and honour of attending the Los Angeles premier of The Dark and The Wounded documentary, which just saw its Toronto premier two days prior.
It’s always difficult to describe Picard and his abilities in mere words to someone who has never heard of him; it’s possibly equally difficult describing him by means of examples. One lonely specimen of a painting/sculpture could in no way fully represent his skill-set. Heck, not even ten or twenty. As I scroll through his facebook pages or the Google image results, trying to find a decently varied collection of pieces to represent him, I hear people saying, “Oh, so he’s a classical artist?” “He’s a Still Life painter then?” “He does contemporary, I guess?”
All I want to say is, “No, no! He does everything! And by that I mean, EVERYTHING.” He’s a master of the arts, truly; a master of all masters. We live in a time where we have a chance to recognise genius before it’s too late – long gone should be the days when creative genius was only acknowledged posthumously, à la Mozart, Van Gogh and so forth. That’s just a tragedy. We should be able to identify it when its still alive, and applaud it while we can.
This is a man where you have to check the caption every time he posts something to facebook, because you can never quite be sure whether what you’re looking at is a photo or a painting. The type of artist where his comment sections are filled with phrases such as, “Oh, this is actually a photograph, I just assumed it was another one of your drawings,” as if churning out photo-like real-to-life images is just so normal.
In any case, we were here to celebrate The Dark and The Wounded series of paintings, which ultimately culminated in this fantastic short documentary film. It takes us through the journey of how the painting series first came to fruition, right up until the climax of acquiring Alcatraz as an exhibition space.
Yes, that’s right, The Dark and The Wounded was exhibited in Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco, one of the many stops on the tour. The series aims to display its creative genius and profound message in locations that are most apt to drawing out the true feelings and passion behind the paintings featured – for Picard, the environment should always contribute just as much to the experience as the art itself. It facilitates the process of exposing the real and raw emotions of those that are viewing the pieces, tapping into a region of the psyche and soul that may otherwise be lying buried and forgotten. For some people, the experience stays with them/haunts them for days. For many, even much longer than that (watch our video interview for creepy details on this). But only in a good way. In a way that makes us realise that we are all human, and that we all share at least one thing: pain and suffering.
In that same vein, though, it lets us know that we are equally bonded by our ability to thrive, to be happy and grateful. Humans go through suffering, they go through life, and yet, it is in that very fact that we are connected and that we can come out the other end. Suffering is not an obstacle, it is a challenge – and where there is dark, there is always light.
Extremely impressed with the other documentaries that were also in the running for Best Film, we are are extremely proud and excited to say that The Dark and The Wounded nevertheless scooped up the Grand Prize – of course, we never had a doubt anyway. On one hand, it’s an art documentary. On the other hand, it’s still so much more than that: this is not just a story about an artist and a collection of his really great paintings. It is, in my opinion, first and foremost a humanitarian film, the tale of how one man chose to address the dark issues we face as humans, in a medium most familiar to him. Some people donate to charities, some people become community activists; others become missionaries, while others still may regularly volunteer their time to a local non-profit. Picard is raising awareness, and volunteering his time and money to humanity, through his art (it should not go unnoted that Picard is also an ardent volunteer, both in his community and beyond – in Vancouver alone, he has won three volunteer awards, for his work with sick children, schools, the homeless, and the underprivileged; in 2001, Picard travelled to New York City to help out with the bereft children of the victims in the aftermath of September 11). Picard’s The Dark and The Wounded is a memoir of human suffering, a collection of pain and trauma throughout the ages, still reflected in our society today; it is a story told without words, in a language understood by us all: art.
Of course, Picard was then whisked off to his next destination, Montreal (following a meeting with HBO, just sooo LA), ready to present his next exhibit the very following evening, namely his, “Rock’n’Roll: Portraits.Art.Vision,” series.
Thank you, James Picard, for an inspiring evening as always.
Special shout-outs go to Jeff Dean, the director of the film, as well as our good friend Matt Goldman, who acted as production assistant on set (and also starred as a “Ghost” in the documentary!), and whom we were very happy to see again at the festival. An important mention also goes to photographer Vivien, who managed to capture the event perfectly. Of course, final thanks go to New Media Film Festival, for putting on an exciting display again this year.