Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wayne Gilbert: Now a Film - Essay - A Closer Look


It remains a fact that Wayne Gilbert is the only person I’ve ever met who has been written about in "People" magazine.  I consider this noteworthy because "People" is
this country’s most successful magazine, with over forty five million readers.  My brother Billy was mentioned in "The New Yorker" mag once, but it has a puny two million readers.

From that pinnacle, Wayne has soared higher.  He notified me recently that a film about his art will be part of the 9th Annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival. "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert" by film maker Wayne Slaten will be screened on Sunday, November 12, 2017, 4 pm - 5:30 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Many years ago I wrote the following about Wayne: “His artistic use of human ashes as commentary on mortality and our misbehavior in light of it gained him global attention.”  Simplistic words, yet they attest to the artistic imagination and innovation which made him notorious, and which compel prattling magazines and film makers to carry on about him.

Wayne’s chosen material becomes even more fascinating framed against his visits to India, where ashes have deep spiritual as well as ritualistic significance.  Hoping to end the cycle of death and rebirth, after burning bodies, devout Hindus ritualistically toss ashes into the holy Ganges.  And holy men who renounce worldly goods and meditate in order to transcend their bodies and merge with the universal spirit, smear ashes on their heads. In both rituals, ashes play a role in sanctification and liberation from the cycles of reincarnation.

He found it refreshing, Wayne said, to show art in a place where no one freaked out over his materials.  On one of his trips to India he was “written up” in a magazine, with no ambivalence in tone, artistic use of ashes didn’t “disturb their spiritual balance.”  In other countries in which he has exhibited, he said the response has been “open minded, except in America,” where there is “religious zealotry.”

Image from "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert" Taken from website of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston