I really dig Mary Blair's art and it's hard to overestimate her influence on graphic arts. I seriously doubt we would have had The Powerpuff Girls without Mary Blair. I'm sure we could make a long list of animation designers, graphic artists and illustrators who have at least tried to cop her deceptively simple, somewhat geometric style and superior color sense. But I was late discovering her work, much to my embarrassment.
How'd I finally come around? Well, a couple of years ago, the art museum here at the Hamamatsu Castle Park held a Disney show with lots of recently rediscovered hand-painted backgrounds from actual Disney movies, cells, pre-production artwork and sketches dating back to "Steamboat Willie." The standout artist of it all was Mary Blair; seeing her paintings up close just about popped my eyeballs out of their sockets. You know, in a good way. I even bought an expensive hardcover art book so I could scrutinize the woman's colorful, fun work. When I was in Tokyo a week or so ago, I noticed these big train station advertisements for a Mary Blair show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo:
No great feat that. They're pretty big and fun to look at. A gorgeous photo of the artist-- herself quite striking in an South American-style peasant blouse-- and a bright-colored Alice falling past a mirror. Pure visual joy. I hope to see this show in person before it closes. It'll be a near thing. My entertainment expenses are tapped out thanks to Melt-Banana. Not that I'm complaining; that show was worth every yen and the toe-blisters, too.
But Mary Blair? Her artwork in a show with planning support by the fabulous Studio Ghibli, home of Miyazaki Hayao, maker of Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro among other animated enchantments? Actually, I may already have seen at least some of these paintings; she was well-represented at that Disney show. This might be something I'll regret not at least trying to see, though. A day trip? Why not!
Oh, and while you're here-- go see Ponyo!