“At Home With Monsters,” the Guillermo del Toro exhibit currently at LACMA, can’t be more highly recommended. Culled from the director/writer’s Bleak House – his personal collection of horror, scifi and fantasy-related art and props – it is a fascinating maze of imagination and inspiration. LACMA curator Britt Salvesen did an impressive job, creating the sensation of passing through the halls of a terrifically creepy house.
Del Toro was present at the press preview for a short Q&A session with Salvesen and LACMA’s CEO, Michael Govan, at the gallery’s Bing Theater. The session was cut short by traffic and a late arrival, but once del Toro started speaking, I could’ve listened forever. He is very articulate and passionate, with a good sense of humor, which clearly helped him survive his rough childhood. Growing up in Guadalajara in a miserably strict Catholic family, he felt like an outsider from the very beginning. He identified with monsters – especially Frankenstein’s Monster – largely because they were unwelcome misfits and freaks. It broke my heart to hear that as a kid, he wrote Famous Monsters of Filmland’s Forrest Ackerman and asked to be adopted, only to have his father intercept the letter and beat him, demanding, “What’s wrong with your real family?” Del Toro laughed when telling the story and said that he was thinking, “Where do I start??” His misery is really driven home by the note in the exhibit’s “Death and the Afterlife” section, which says that his grandmother tried to have him exorcised – more than once. Nice way to damage a kid.
Photo gallery after the jump
As he describes it, del Toro discovered his own kind of spiritualism, and of course, escape, through horror and fairy tales, something that many creative types can relate to. In the session, he didn’t shy away from his understandable aversion to religion, and his disgust with current politics, but he had the right audience. At the end, he said kindly that he hoped his collection and work can give some comfort and inspiration to anyone out there who might be struggling the way he did.
Then we dispersed to wander through the exhibit, which is laid out beautifully. I was too excited to follow the thematic layout very well, so I will have to go back and take my time, and make sure to acknowledge the connection between the pieces. In addition to the props and concept notes/art from his films, it was thrilling to see original paintings by artists I admire, like Eyvind Earle, Arthur Rackham and Zdzisław Beksiński, and also to discover new ones like Jean-Baptiste Monge. Check out some photos of those and others after the jump.
All photos by Simone Snaith for The LA Beat