Editors Note: The original article cited that the screening of the documentarty "Beauty Is Embarassing" would be held on June 21, 2012 as it was originally planned. The specific date is now "to be determined", but organizers are confident the screening will take place this Summer.
Back in 2009, a review copy of a rather large coffee table book was sent to our offices. Life has been a little different ever since.
The book, “Maybe Now I Will Get The Credit I So Richly Deserve,” is dedicated to the work of Wayne White. Artist, puppeteer, sculptor, painter, revolutionary, visionary, Emmy Award-winning—White is all these things and a master of more than a few. White has the extraordinary ability to work in set design, video, painting and sculpture, yet with each project he retains his own DNA. It’s all distinctly different, yet distinctly his.
Wayne White launched his career with his set design and puppet creations on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and went on to numerous award-winning projects such as art directing the music videos “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel and “Tonight’s The Night” by Smashing Pumpkins. There is much more beyond these impressive examples of his incredible portfolio.
Google “Wayne White,” or even better, “Wayne White George Jones Head.” His work delights, informs, entertains—it makes you think and, most often, you realize that you have the biggest smile on your face when you are looking at it.
Here is the one aspect of Wayne White that still continues to surprise people who discover his work—White is from Chattanooga. Yes, he’s a native son. His parents still live in his childhood home in Hixson, where graduated from Hixson High in 1975. He proudly claims his origins in his work. The references to this region and the “Southerness” that he knows so well is often obvious and up front, especially in some of his paintings.
Wayne has appeared at two book signings in the past couple of years at Winder Binder Folk Art Gallery and Bookstore. These were less book signings and more “performances” to be accurate. Wayne displays slides of his art, tells stories about his work and gives insight into the process, all while picking around on a banjo and being genuinely hilarious.
Now comes 2012 and a documentary about White and his work has just premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival. “Beauty Is Embarrassing” is a film all about the artist, some of it shot here in Chattanooga, of course. As the reviews pile in, it’s clearly a winner for both White and writer-director Neil Berkeley. This Summer (exact date is still to be determined), Chattanooga will get its turn to screen the film and see Wayne perform his monologue at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. The Arts and Education Council will present this special screening with White appearing to perform with the Shaking Ray Levis, reconnecting a performance partnership established during his last visit.
White’s next visit is getting more attention—a bigger venue, more exposure—but the question is this: When will White’s work take a permanent slot center stage in his hometown?
Many people have speculated about the reason why such Chattanooga-bred stars as Usher or Samuel L. Jackson don’t claim a close connection to their hometown. While that chatter continues, White has been winning Emmys, having books written about him, installing sculptures in museums across the country, and now a documentary featuring such fans as “The Simpson’s” creator Matt Groening and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.
Wayne White has produced important works of art. That much should be recognized no matter where he’s from. It just seems like a rather embarrassing oversight that there isn’t more recognition of his work in his birthplace. Word on the street is Chattanooga’s Public Art team is looking for an artist to install a large work on West Main Street. Perhaps Wayne White is up for the task.