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Watch these five documentaries about artists who matter

Vik Munez and the trash pickers turned artists star in Waste Land. (Photo: Waste Land)

 

Artists need to share their stories.

Artists also need to know other artists journeys. And while the number of gallery openings and art fairs and festivals have dwindled during the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense to tune into artists’ lives through films and documentaries.  It especially makes sense to tune in during the hottest days of summer, when cranking up the air conditioning and the inspiration simultaneously seem like a hot idea.

Here’s our first recommendations:

Red – This PBS theater documentary shows the complicated relationship between artist and artist assistant. The artist Mark Rothko likes to give long monologues and never asks about his Black assistant’s work.

LA Originals –   Watch the rise of photographer Estevan Oriol and Mister Cartoon, a tattoo artist, as they rise to become among the biggest visual artists in hip hop. Read about this documentary in The Guardian feature; then tune in on this 90-minute Netflix documentary.

Swoon: Fearless  –  This documentary on Vimeo weaves together 20 years of footage about street artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon.  Her work started as a student in New York City and is “known for marrying the whimsical to the grounded” or realistic. 

Waste Land.   Artist Vik Muniz works with Brazilian garbage pickers to create art from items found in the world’s largest landfill.  The documentary won more than 50 film awards by showing the

Nina Simon’s fiery life shows up in a highly regarded documentary on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

transformative power of art and collaboration. It is available on Amazon Prime for $3.99 for one time viewing.

What Happened, Miss Simone?  The life of singer – songwriter and activist Nina Simone  shows her “fiery and dynamic artistry.” This is one of the best documentaries on Netflix now, according to Esquire magazine.

We hope to feature more documentaries about artists and poets and musicians in a post in the fall, so please share your favorite in a comment.

Thanks to 1xRun and Mint cofounder and artist Hubert Massey for inspiring and contributing to this post.