Today at film fest: 'The Cardboard Bernini' examines art of dissolving sculptures

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

April 4, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated April 4, 2013 at 11:05 p.m.

A still from Olympia Stone's "The Cardboard Bernini" that shows artist James Grashow and his cardboard interpretation of famous baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini's original work.

A still from Olympia Stone's "The Cardboard Bernini" that shows artist James Grashow and his cardboard interpretation of famous baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini's original work.

The Victoria TX Independent Film Festival has off-kilter films for everyone, and "The Cardboard Bernini" definitely falls into this category.

Director Olympia Stone took six years to create the film, which showcases mixed-media artist James Grashow, as he embarks on a journey to create a giant cardboard fountain, only to watch the Earth's elements disintegrate his hard work into mush.

The screening is free at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Nave Museum. Stone said she is unsure what reception she'll receive from Crossroads viewers.

When the film premiered last fall at the New Hampshire Film Festival, she received reactions ranging from tears of sadness to tears of happiness.

The film is what it is, she said.

"I think it is really about the life cycle," Stone said of what she learned from her own creation. "It's about accepting the fact that we all die, and we don't live forever."

Stone talked with the Advocate on the way from North Carolina to Victoria about her film.

How did you discover this project, and what made you want to pursue it cinematically?

It's been a long time in the making. My father owned an art gallery in New York for years, so I've known the artist (James) my whole life. He had built these giant sculptures, and they were with me in my house growing up. There wasn't room for them in the house, so my father put them outside on the lawn.

They started to disintegrate, and then my father died suddenly. James came by the house to pay his respects and hadn't seen his work on the lawn. I had been photographing it, and to me, the way it was disintegrating spoke to my father's death so much.

He told me he wanted to build this cardboard fountain inspired by the baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and then let it disintegrate.

So then you started following him around? How long does something like that take?

I would come down every couple of months or so to film him, and that was over the course of four to five years. He's a working artist, so he's working on other things. He teaches. He does workshops, does commissions and works other projects. He's an amazing woodcutting artist, and this was something he was doing on the side.

This time last year, that fountain was at a museum in Connecticut. We agreed it would be outside for six weeks. It really didn't do anything for the first three weeks. There was no rain, and I thought, oh my God, what are we going to do. Then it started raining heavily after that, and while it wasn't completely dissolved, it was still largely gone.

Do you think he was truly inspired by what he saw on your family's lawn that day?

It really hit him in the face that this was a part of the process. He had never really taken anything on like that before. People love asking him questions, and people love to talk to him. He loves to be part of that. He's a very positive guy, and what he did is not a nihilistic thing. He just sees it as part of the whole process.

Why should people watch the film, and how do they usually react?

It can be very emotional. I think people have a really hard time with the idea that this is something he has created, and it's something really beautiful, and he is just going to let it disintegrate. Some people really can't relate to that.



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