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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

White Christmas (1954)

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

I am realizing more and more that one of my struggles, recently, with the project is writing the blog entry. It feels a lot like no one reads it. It feels a lot like earnestly whispering to the void and while I'm not doing this for anyone but me... I don't know. It feels weird. Especially because I've been deep in my own headspace and processing a lot about my life and, hey, lots of what I write about here is deeply personal. So maybe it's good that no one is reading, but then, maybe I can just write it in a journal and stop paying for the hosting and the anxiety of a couple people I *don't* want reading it, pouring over it to divine insight that they frankly haven't earned. It's weird. Anywho...


I haven't watched this one in a couple years. It was a family tradition to have it playing in the background while we decorated the tree. I loved the music. I never really consciously considered the costumes but watching it tonight it is clear that my design aesthetic was deeply informed by Edith Head's brilliant designs. (If I can put a layered circle skirt and/or sock garters in a show, you better believe I'm gonna do it.) As I do the Heavy Work in therapy, I'm starting to unpack so many moments from childhood and as much as I loved this movie and the tree... those were not happy times. Full of sniping, and judgment, and passive aggression. I was worried that this movie wouldn't stand up to those realizations or my sadness but I was happily very wrong. It's a delight and a classic for a reason.


This was Ben's first time seeing it and that was fun. He was more charmed by it than I expected and he was shocked to finally understand a reference his mom loves making (she even quoted "Sisters" at her own sister's funeral). It was enlightening for both of us to unpack Danny Kaye being an early crush of mine, especially given what a goober Phil is in this movie. I got to teach him about Martha Graham (because gosh darn I love the "Choreography" number and it's really weird when you don't know the history of modern dance which, frankly, I didn't know until a couple years ago and now I love it more!). I got to explain about Edith Head's controversial career and the heartbreaking reason for Vera Ellen's high collars. I got to geek out over CIRCLE SKIRTS and why they are PERFECT and NECESSARY for dance numbers. I felt tonight like the movie has a place in my new traditions. It's weird!


I'm prone to cynicism too often, lately, but I'm so impressed by how the sincerity of this movie continues to land. It makes no logistical sense (how many rooms does the inn have exactly?? did they bring teamsters in from New York or are they from the Vermont local?) but it's so committed to doing good and perceiving good that it's really hard to get bogged down. I agree with Ben, though, that little creek makes no sense and now I can't stop thinking about it.


The best part of this movie for me now, though, is watching some ridiculously talented people have a BLAST together.

Between the fellas doing "Sisters" and Vera Ellen grinning her way through that number in the yellow dress just before the third act... it's joyous. And given my cynicism for the arts lately, that did my heart some good. (Not enough attention is paid to Wallace giving his entire cast and crew ten PAID days off going into the holidays. Unheard of today. A Broadway Christmas Miracle.)


This movie and this project kept my intense anxiety at bay (a little) and gave me the Christmas spirit again. I'm so glad.


"They're Doin' Choreography"

Ink on paper. 9x12"

Lino cut & screen printing.



Takeaways:

-Look. It is not perfect and it took a loooooooot of prints to get to a place I was reasonably satisfied with but I'm so in love with this piece I cried a little when I got the one pictured.

-When I think about who I am as an artist (something I think about A Lot these days as I apply to grad school and am forced to write about it), I love 1)shifting the art/medium to meet the challenge (i.e. my style comes second to what I'm trying to accomplish) and 2) combining skills I've acquired to meet the first point. I so love lino print work, especially after last week's Muppety leap forward in technique, but I love screenprinting even more, it's just more expensive and easier to absolutely ruin. This is the first piece that really, truly feels like me on the page in both style and execution.

-I always thought of this song as "Egyptian" when I was a kiddo because of the eye makeup and the poses. I hadn't thought about that until I was cleaning up the lino and thought, "hey this looks a little Egyptian!" Guess I tapped into something there.

-Gotta toot my own horn a bit. I have a *jank* set up for screen printing. I have a 500W work light I balance on paint stir sticks laid across towers of books to get the distance I need above the screen. Half tones and fine detail, I'm led to believe from my teacher, Reddit, are nigh impossible to get on that kind of rig. I really really really took a chance doing the delicate lines I did for Vera (drawn in Procreate then printed on transparency) and it took forever to wash out but it (mostly) turned out and, well, TOOT TOOT.


Friends, I hope this holiday treats you with gentle care and good humor. I hope you're safe and I hope that you're joyful.


Next week, an introverted witch fights Nazis!! EVERYTHING I WANT IN LIFE! It's Bedknobs and Broomsticks!!!

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