Last spring, for those interested in the weird, monstrous, and bizarre, two Twin Cities museums definitely had us covered, drawing in special exhibits from each coast. After the cold winter, it was fun to have such escapist fare to check out.
At the Minneapolis Institute of Art, an exhibition put together by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was featured, Guillermo del Toro: At Home With the Monsters. MIA was one of three lucky stops in North America for the fascinating, exhaustive exhibition of pieces collected by the idiosyncratic and innovative director, Guillermo del Toro. It was really kind of breathtaking.
While I’m not a superfan, I have tended to be drawn into many of del Toro’s cinematic visions, working with horrific yet beautiful images, intricate and eerie, drawing deeply from mythology and literature. This is true especially of Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno). I was eager to check this exhibit out, and we were lucky enough to get in as part of one of MIA’s fun Third Thursday events, enjoying horror themed cocktails and the music of local band, Graveyard Club, before braving the ornate portals into the exhibition itself.
The collection was packed full of artifacts and works which both inspired Guillermo del Toro in his deep well of imagination, along with background information about the director, from his childhood in Guadalajara to the literary and artistic traditions he drew from. Divided into areas by theme, it seemed that at every turn, some new cool, disturbing, entrancing, or breathtaking discovery was to be found; eighteenth century models of diseased organs, vintage comics, props and full sized sculptures of some of del Toro’s more infamous creations.
A creepily life-like statue of H.P. Lovecraft, fittingly displayed among the monsters, startled many exhibit viewers with his intense gaze (if not his deeply disturbing personal views). Like del Toro, I too found myself drawn in by the author’s rich, eldritch writing but horrified by his philosophies, which I write about in more detail here. All in all, At Home with the Monsters was a richly rewarding and engaging exhibit, even for those new to the director (though those steeped in his creations were, of course, more engaged).
Across the river at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the special exhibit on Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids was also an interesting, informative exploration into the science behind the mythology of such legendary creatures. Put together by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, this one was a bit more geared for children but still had some interesting tidbits and bits of new information for adult fans of strange creatures, too. Organized around the creatures of the water, the air, and the land, coupled with huge, impressive statues, the exhibit detailed the biological, historical, and literary origins of such mythological beings, hoaxes and folklore, pop culture and high culture. All in all, it was a fun exhibit and a fun accompaniment to “At Home with the Monsters.”
Now that the cold times have returned, staying at home and traveling through movies, books, and other things is definitely a smart way to survive a Minnesota winter.