Twenty years ago auteur filmmaker David Lynch elicited delight and (mostly) rancor from fans by making a film based on his critically successful TV series Twin Peaks called Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Only the staunchest of Twin Peaks fans seemed to appreciate the way the film amplified the TV series' elements of surrealism and supernatural horror while painting it a darker shade and removing much of the show's humor.
That said, there was nothing about the Saturday opening of the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 20th anniversary art show at pop surrealist hub Copro Gallery to suggest that only hard-core FWWM fans were in attendance. It seems that a Lynch-head is a Lynch-head, whether your preference lies only with Blue Velvet and Eraserhead or whether it spans Lynch's entire body of artistic work to include Crazy Clown Time, Dune and his early AFI short films.
The show is a follow-up to a 2011 art show called “In the Trees,” which celebrated the TV series' 20th anniversary. The second show features all of the same artists plus several additions, including Esao Andrews, Tim Biskup, James Hahn, Dan May, Chris Berens, Dan Quintana, Jessica Joslin and Twin Peaks actors Richard Beymer, James Marshall and Grace Zabriskie. Both exhibitions were curated by Rob Wilson, who suggested the idea to Lynch. Lynch — who said he made FWWM because he wasn't ready to leave the characters of Twin Peaks behind — gave his approval and even provided some of his own work to be shown.
On Saturday, a long but quickly moving line stretched outside Bergamot Station's gates onto the sidewalk. There were plenty of women in '50s-style makeup and hairdos. Men with Skrillex-inspired haircuts or dyed bangs. Older couples. People with tiny dogs. Couples speaking French. Families with children. Instagram-ing twentysomethings.
Once inside, the line of people coming and going merged awkwardly, like a piece of rope twisted so that it starts wrapping back on itself. “Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!” chanted one man as he pushed through the thick, sweaty crowd trying to get out. “Walk with me,” said another man.
Checking out the exhibition the was like entering through red curtains into a hazy, suspended quasi-nightmare in which the dominant colors were red and black. The music oscillated between foggy atmospherics and more sinister incarnations of elevator music.
The pieces ranged from scale models to sketches to sculptures to paintings. Images of the blonde central figure of Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer, along with her body-bagged precursor Teresa Banks, were popular motifs, as was the evil, manic-eyed “Bob.” And while neon lights (in the work One Eyed Jack), harbinger owls (The Owls Are Not What They Seem) and thick forests recurred throughout the gallery's two main chambers, the artistic styles and tones were varied enough to make the show feel like a sincere tribute to the Twin Peaks franchise and not just a capitalizing on its cult status.
Artist Chris Peters says he hasn't seen FWWM, but that didn't interfere with his conception of a piece for the show. “The show was the real deal, and the film was sort of the afterthought,” he says.
He did see the show when it was on air in the early '90s. “It was crazy when it came on TV. There wasn't anything ever like it. They didn't have that many stations on television even, and for David Lynch to have a show on TV was quite insane,” says Peters. Because he is from Seattle — and Twin Peaks is the quintessential (at least in appearances) Northwestern town — he wanted “to do something more personal” instead of wedging his usual style into the show.
Bob's Forest, with its soft ethereality, captures the style of American Tonalism (colorful, misty landscapes from the 1880s) that Peters has been studying while breaking with much of the darker tones present in the rest of the exhibition.
“I remember seeing [Twin Peaks] in college and just tripping out about it, getting into David Lynch and just being, like, 'I'm always going to watch whatever this guy does,'” says Nathan Spoor, whose painting is called Homecoming. He never saw the second season because he “moved onto something else” (his love of Tarantino), but unlike many Lynch fans, he actually loved FWWM.
For inspiration, Spoor watched the film once or twice a week over a period of two months. “I rented it seven times. From Netflix three times, and from a video store three or four times. There's only one serious hard-copy video store down the street because all the Blockbusters are closed,” he says. By way of advice, his girlfriend told him, “Art is not a movie remake,” a claim he took seriously.
“My process is to wait until the image arrives/appears, so I just had to keep watching it 'til something clicked and I saw it in my mind. As soon as I saw it I stopped watching it and started producing,” says Spoor.
What “clicked” were Laura Palmer, her body bag and her house. “I thought, what happens if, after she's dead, her bag returns? Like, that would be the creepiest thing in the world!” Spoor yells, his eyes gone wide as though he actually becomes a little freaked out for a moment. “So that's what I tried to capture.”
While the show will probably be most appealing to those who have watched the show or the film (or who appreciate the juncture of beauty and fucked-up-ness that is at the heart of the Lynchian aesthetic), not everyone in attendance at the opening was a seasoned Lynch-head.
One visitor, Lola Martinez, came to see the work of her friend Ver Mar and brought her three children along. The two twin girls, Lola and Simona, age 9, were dressed as Lil the Dancer — that is, in red dresses with blue clip-on roses. Their 10-year-old brother, Samuel, wore a white mask from Michael's, which was reminiscent of the pointed-nose masked man. Their mother was wearing an eye patch, like the eccentric character of Nadine Hurley.
“I think it's so timely that something like this can happen years after,” says Martinez, the mom. “I was really happy to bring the kids, who really had not had that much exposure, so I had to explain everything. They were really into it. As soon as they saw themselves in the paintings, they started standing taller.”
The kids' responses to the artwork?
“It wasn't weird at all,” says Lola.
“It was really nice. I liked all of it, it was nice,” says Simona.
Had they seen any of Lynch's work?
“I heard of some of them — the shows — but I haven't seen them,” Simona offers.
Samuel, true to character, keeps his mask on and lets his sisters do most of the talking.
Martinez says that when trying to find the gallery, the family accidentally wandered into a gallery with “paintings of obese women.”
“I was trying to be chill,” says Martinez, “but they were, like, 'This is disturbing.' But [for the Lynch show] there wasn't any qualms, or 'That looks funny or scary.' But the obese naked ladies were a bit too much for them.”