Independent Lens – Beauty Is Embarrassing

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Monday, January 21 • 10 p.m. 
Part biography, part live performance, Beauty Is Embarrassing is a funny, irreverent, joyful, and inspiring portrait of Wayne White, a one-of-a-kind visual artist. As a designer, painter, puppeteer, sculptor, and musician, he has created some of the most arresting and iconic images in pop culture.
The film traces White’s career from his early work as an underground cartoonist in New York’s East Village to his big break on Pee-wee’s Playhouse, for which he won three Emmys. It follows his subsequent success designing and animating for other children’s shows and for music videos through a dark period of struggle
and self-reflection, to his current incarnation as a respected painter and performer. 
For two years, filmmaker Neil Berkeley traveled with White through Houston, Miami, New York, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Los Angeles, retracing Wayne’s life from his childhood in Tennessee, through his marriage to artist Mimi Pond, and their family life with two children who are also artists. Throughout the course of the film, Berkeley peels back layer after layer of Wayne’s singular creative process and explores his astonishingly prolific career. The film is interwoven with video made by White throughout his career, including never-before-seen behind the scenes footage of the making of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Wayne White’s early creative success was followed by a fall. Yet, as Wayne explains in the film, there are sometimes second acts in life that take us to new heights. At its core, Beauty Is Embarrassing shows what it takes for one uniquely talented, profanely hilarious, and utterly uncompromising artist to make it in America.
The film also features interviews with Matt Groening, Mark Mothersbaugh, Todd Oldham, Paul Reubens, Gary Panter, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, and many others.