Alan Magee: art is not a solace
Portrait of brilliant artist Alan Magee who dares to explore the darker aspects of human nature and behavior while also celebrating the beauty he finds in the natural world.
Directed by P. David Berez, David Wright
Produced by P. David Berez, David Wright
Director of Photography: David Wright
Editor: P. David Berez, Alan Magee, Monika Magee
Visual Effects Artist: Nathan Bowman
Studio Mix: Michael McInniss
A Post Office Editorial Production
Best known for his captivating realist paintings, artist Alan Magee also creates works that delve into the darkest aspects of human nature. His arresting images which comment on corporate greed, on cruelty and gun violence, and on civilian and military victims of war seem at odds with his serene paintings of nature and found objects, but through his distinctive visual language and interconnected themes, Magee suggests that these dual realms are inseparably interwoven.
"Meditative and educational...allow[s] students to grasp the impact and power of art as a political voice." Dee Hibbert-Jones, Professor of Art, UC-Santa Cruz
Shot on location, from Pemaquid Point, Maine to the streets of Berlin, Alan Magee: art is not a solace explores the artist's subjects, locales, and the historical sources which have sustained his work for five decades. Through his paintings, sculpture, monotypes, music and short films, Magee invites viewers to travel with him through the veiled recesses of human experience—and back into the affirming light of day.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2022
Copyright Date: 2019
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-82-8
"This is a remarkable film about a remarkable artist. It's a long time since I've seen anything that so skillfully gets inside the life of a highly creative person at work. Alan Magee: art is not a solace does this on so many levels, attentive to Magee's background, his technique, the influences on him, and - something so often ignored when we talk about artists - the great lies and injustices of the times in which we live."
Adam Hochschild, Author, King Leopold's Ghost, To End All Wars, Bury the Chains, and Spain in Our Hearts
"Quietly stunning...From enchantment to tranquility to dread, but always leaving room for optimism in the midst of tragedy, artist Alan Magee invests his brilliant technique with a deep basic humanity that calls us to animate our political life with internal reflection as well as outward action. Not only did this film leave me wanting to look again and longer at Magee's work, it made me, a professional art historian, want to think more and differently about art of all kinds."
Rebecca Zorach, Professor of Art and Art History, Northwestern University, Author, Art for People's Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago 1965-1975
"This intimate portrait reveals the creative universe of a major artist: we meet Magee's friends and learn about his sources of inspiration and the artists he admires. Magee is a man of conscience, who speaks with great humility, honesty, and conviction of past and present events. He is an engaged onlooker, whose works make us look and as we look and see, make us feel and think. His art speaks compellingly and adamantly asks us viewers to speak in return -- to speak out."
Véronique Plesch, Professor of Art, Colby College, Editor, Maine Arts Journal
"In his art, Alan Magee makes disturbing dimensions of life visible - dimensions which are often hidden by the forces of political, economic, and religious power. This film is both touching and inspiring; it opens critical windows into history, the current state of the world, and our individual lives. This is outstanding educational material. It communicates the power of art to change how we see ourselves and to know the world - and through this shift in perception, to recognize and resist the forces of inhumanity. By transforming the ordinary into art, Magee invites us to access the spiritual dimension of the world."
Michael Haspel, Professor of Protestant Theology and Ethics, University of Erfurt and the Frederich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany
"This film is a wonderful close-up look at an artist at work, which also takes us on a spiritual journey. The ideal role of an artist is to be a magician, and that's certainly the case with Alan Magee. Alan is endowed with what might be described as 'a third eye' -- an intensity of sight which penetrates to the deep truths of human life and human suffering. Whether for its haunting expressive message, or for its artful interplay of images, dialogue and music, this is a film worth watching more than once."
Henry Adams, Professor of Art History, Case Western Reserve University
"Meditative and educational...Alan Magee: art is not a solace will reach undergraduates in art and art history programs and allow students to grasp the impact and power of art as a political voice in times of turmoil."
Dee Hibbert-Jones, Professor of Art, Director of Arts Research Center, University of California-Santa Cruz, Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Last Day of Freedom
"The profound, beautiful and creatively disruptive art of Alan Magee has found its perfect representatives in David Berez and David Wright. Their rich, deeply moving film is a must see for anyone wishing to more clearly understand the role of art in our social and personal lives. It captures the role artists like Magee play in taking our political passions to an absolutely vital place beyond the surface play of ideological debate. This is a film that will enrich the educational experience of anyone lucky enough to watch it."
T.V. Reed, Professor Emeritus, American Studies and English, Washington State University, Author, The Art of Protest, Curator, culturalpolitics.net
"Alan Magee: art is not a solace follows the evolution of one of the most captivating artists living today. From illustrator to painter to sculptor, student viewers will find a lively shift of mediums used by Magee to express stories of 'the complexity of human life, both the light in it and the darkness.' Instructors will find students mesmerized, awed, and filled with comments, questions, and artistic expressions of their own."
Brian Glenney, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Norwich University, Co-founder, The Accessible Icon Project
"In Weimar Germany, Alan Magee tellingly sees, to paraphrase one of Barbara Tuchman's book titles, a not-so-distant mirror. This film illuminates how that reflection has helped to inspire his wondrous and varied creativity. Alan Magee: art is not a solace is an at once gentle and strong argument for the enduring pertinence of honesty and candor."
Peter Hayes, Professor Emeritus of History and German, Northwestern University, Author, Why?: Explaining the Holocaust
"At its most powerful, visual art nurtures connections across human existence. Alan Magee: art is not a solace is a moving exploration of Magee's ability to connect us to the past and the present while fostering curiosity and empathy. This is an essential watch for those of all ages who are interested in the myriad ways through which creativity and humaneness are joined."
Margaret Winslow, Curator of Contemporary Art, Delaware Art Museum
"With compelling cinematography and sensitive editing, Alan Magee: art is not a solace tells the riveting story of the artist as he moves through boyhood in rural Pennsylvania to heady days as a successful illustrator in New York City to finding his own voice as an acclaimed master of contemporary realism. We see the artist at work, hear his concerns and appreciate his admiration for the artists of the Weimar Republic, particularly Käthe Kollwitz, whose work, like Magee's, finds beauty in both life's darkness and light. Ultimately this is the story of an exceptional artist whose timeless art explores what it means to be human, whose art invites empathy, hope and understanding."
Suzette McAvoy, former Chief Curator and Executive Director, Center for Maine Contemporary Art
"Alan Magee's art is a window helping us to see the depths of our shared human vulnerability with compassion, and an urgent voice encouraging us to dismantle the systems that suppress and destroy our humanity."
Paul K. Chappell, Founder and Executive Director, Peace Literacy Institute, Author, Road to Peace
"In this intimate and compelling portrait of the artist, we get to watch the inimitable Alan Magee respond to a world that is both unjust and sublime. At work in his studio, Magee creates immaculate paintings and haunting monotypes. As he reflects on a wide range of art history, we follow his personal journey as painter, printmaker, sculptor and songwriter. Paradoxically perhaps, this film offers solace and insight into the mind and art of a brilliant creative individual."
Carl Little, Art Writer, Poet, Author, Nature and Culture: The Art of Joel Babb
"As a devotee of German Weimar artists from between WWI and II (Käthe Kollwitz prime among them), Alan Magee's incredibly detailed and poignant artworks resonate all too clearly in our own dark times. There are lessons to be learned from his wounded children, guns, eerie faces and penetrating eyes. They speak to the social responsibility of artists and to Magee's active involvement in targeting the destroyers of life, highlighting, in the meantime, our own responsibilities as humans."
Lucy R. Lippard, Co-founder, Ad Hoc Committee of Women Artists and Heresies Collective, Author, From the Center: Feminist Essays on Art and The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Feminist Essays on Art
"By what miraculous good fortune, by what curious irony, does a shallow, materialist, violent culture like ours produce an artist of such patient and beautiful talent, such profoundly refined love and defiance as Alan Magee? In the victims of power he discovers a power of humanity far greater than their oppressor's. This exquisitely crafted film and Alan's art bring us into proximity with that ineffable combination of the tragic and the transformative."
Robert Shetterly, artist, activist, subject of Truth Tellers, creator of Americans Who Tell The Truth
"Alan Magee: art is not a solace is a stunning and wonderfully accessible antidote to the cynicism and detachment of today. In these challenging times, the story of Magee's evolution from young boy to master artist/activist challenges us all to explore bigger themes: What does it mean to be human? How do we respond to the times in which we live? I can't imagine a better primer for young minds. This is a beautifully crafted roadmap on how to lead with empathy to create a life of conscience and consequence."
Daniel Karslake, award-winning American Director/Producer, For We Know Not What We Do, For the Bible Tells Me So
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Awards and Festivals
Camden International Film Festival
Sedona International Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Annapolis Film Festival
New Hope Film Festival
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... more Reviews
"Alan Magee: art is not a solace goes beyond an opportunity to view a beautifully presented selection of multiple forms of captivating, vital artwork. With its excellent score and accompanying material, this perfectly edited film allowed me to know the artist Alan Magee as if I were visiting his studio. It was compelling to view his mastery of various techniques and concepts as I was drawn in by his kindness, integrity, and intellect. At the end of the film, I felt I wanted to return to Alan Magee's studio and spend more time with him, viewing his art and watching him at work."
John J Heartfield, Author, Composer, Curator, The John Heartfield Exhibition
"Alan Magee: art is not a solace is a vivid, insightful and touching new film about an iconic American master whose work, especially in the unforgiving format of monotypes, is a kind of high-wire act: challenging, provocative, disturbing, yet also hauntingly beautiful."
Ted Tally, playwright and screenwriter, Academy Award recipient for The Silence of the Lambs
"Few films about the creative process have given me such privileged access to a gifted artist and his work and yet left me with the desire to know more about the work and the artist himself. Not only a feast for the eye and a journey of personal discovery, the film is a guide to living and an offering of hope in these troubled times."
Robert Kenner, Director of Food, Inc. and the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Two Days in October
"Alan Magee, like most of the artists who are important beyond their own time, is concerned with matters that involve all of us, not just with making his own art. His purpose is to reveal aspects of life that are hidden beneath the superficial ways things appear. He wants to make visible that which is everlastingly good, and to divulge the ever-present horrors that threaten to prevail if we are not vigilant. His careful observation serves us all. This film will ignite that careful observation in those who watch it. Its message is that to become engaged in the world is a powerful and essential activity."
Judith Sobol, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation
"What is a human life worth? The film Alan Magee: art is not a solace offers a nuanced insight into this question. We are summoned into the nucleus of an artist's world to witness the dimensions of a search - filled with experimentation, risk, and doubt - for truths which we are sometimes unable, or afraid, to see...Alan Magee: art is not a solace is, among other things, a call to artists in all fields to create with courage and determination. It insists that art is not an entertainment. Art can help us to grasp the essence of being human and lead us to empathy and profound understanding - but not to solace."
Frank Sumner Dodge, Creative Director, Spectrum Concerts Berlin
"[Alan] wants you to be attentive to the world around you, and being attentive to the world around you means you can't just stare at what is conventionally beautiful. You must look at the whole panorama...Alan is not obsessed with darkness, but he is aware of darkness, and how darkness informs the light."
Barry Lopez, Author, Arctic Dreams, Resistance and Horizon
"If a 'solace' is something soothing and comforting, Alan Magee's work as a mature artist is rather the opposite, full of images that disturb, provoke, and demand attention...This film challenges us to be open to both art and to life, to recognize the light and also the dark shadows of life, thereby coming to see more clearly what it means to be human. I recommend this film for high school, academic, and public libraries, to be shown in the context of courses or programs on self-awareness, social justice, and objective perception, as well as in programs about art and artistic vision."
Carolyn Anthony, Past President, Public Library Association, Chair, Metropolitan Libraries Section of the International Federation of Library Associations