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Monday, March 23, 2015

Art of Terry Gilliam by Walter Bego

Walter Bego has asked to use this blog to play tribute to his favorite artist.
He was the only American-born member of Monty Python, and perhaps the most accomplished director of the cast as well, but Terry Gilliam has always been the artist - the man who took us away from the familiar faces of the players and gave us something completely different.
The era leading into Python was a time of Pop, influenced by the Beatles, and by LSD.
It seemed like all the rules were broken already.  How is an artist supposed to deal with that?  Gilliam found ways of breaking rules we didn't know we had - like art was supposed to either be animated or still.  Gilliam refused to follow.
The largely stationary head with one moving part - frequently the jaw, eye or teeth, became something we identify with him to this day.
Gilliam brought the absurd to the spiritual - a favorite theme of Monty Python.
He also held a mirror to the absurdity of modesty.
It was well that he was taken in by Monty Python - American broadcast television in the 60s and early 70s never would have tolerated him.
A little girl harvesting hands from a grave-site would not have meshed well with Mayberry RFD.
But Gilliam didn't shock for the sake of shock.  In Holy Grail, Arthur and his knights run in fear of a great monster.  Gilliam might have created something truly fearsome.
Instead he gave us something so absurd, that the chase scene had no element of terror.
It wasn't because he lacked the talent to do otherwise.
Gilliam gave us great landscapes.
And streetscapes.
And interior scenes where the characters are dwarfed by their surroundings.
And, of course, he gave us countless images of the human foot.
And the reconstituted human body.
Why is he relegated to the title of comedian, while Warhol and others are called artist?  I don't know.  But I think he understands.
I am grateful to share in this suffering.


Now in his words.