Be Weird: Tim Burton at the Tiff Bell Lightbox Theatre

Spend the afternoon wandering through weirdness. The Tim Burton exhibit at the Tiff Bell Lightbox Theatre displays the inner-workings of one of Hollywood’s most twisted minds.

Tim Burton started his career as a visual artist, attending the California Institute of the Arts before working as a designer for Disney (read full bio here). In his early career, Burton drew caricatures (my favorite: a cartoon entitled “Mothera” [below], where Burton captures the mother figure as an abject beast, with domestic items and babies spindling from her monstrous body, providing comedic and gothic manifestation to the mother’s lament, I only have two hands, I’m not an octopus!)

“Mothera” isn’t the only piece where Burton plays with circulating cultural cliches: his series of Tragic Toys perverts childhood items with his grotesque flare, yet the objects remain oddly compelling (like Voodoo Girl, pictured below)

The gallery takes visitors through Burton’s cinematic developments, from his early stop-film Vincent, to more recent features like Sweeney Tood (there was little focus on Burton’s most recent project, Alice in Wonderland).

Burton’s work has the twisted tendency to surface inner cerebral demons. His art admits that humans are sick-minded, but where most people bypass their own disgusting thoughts, Burton steeps in his weirdness, pausing and panning in on his abject musings. His work irradiates that space that rests in the dark underworld of consciousness.

The winding exhibit at the Bell Lightbox Theatre feels more like a funhouse than an art gallery. Alleyways and aisles showcase Burton’s work, from publically-recognized pieces to personal sketches, from his early journals and sketchbooks, to his recent work, including a seven-foot neon electric carousel [pictured below]. Highlights of the exhibit include the original leather-belted costume that Burton’s friend and long-time collaborator Johnny Depp wore as the character Edward from Burton’s classic Edward Scissorhands. The costume is  displayed alongside one of Edward’s mechanical hands and a series of Burton’s early Edward sketches, which depict the fetal stages of the awkward Edward coming to artistic fruition.

Burton’s artistic oeuvre encourages artists to be weird; his work and success instruct us to be unafraid of the deep chasms of our minds, and to, in fact, draw from these chasms as a source of artistic ingenuity. Surface your demons, Burton’s art seems to say. Be weird.

The Tim Burton gallery is on display at the Bell Lighbox Theatre until April 17, 2011. For more information, go to the the theatre at 350 King Street West or visit the Tiff Website.

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