James Picard, a mixed media and experiential artist, sculptor, documentary filmmaker and humanitarian screened his multi-award (15+) winning documentary short, The Dark & The Wounded. May 14th, at the Cannes Film Festival (2018), The Buzz of the Day at Cannes confirmed that Picard’s film has captured many hearts at the 71st festival, billing it as “the sleeper hit of the festival.” While James Picard’s name and his artwork are not familiar to many, they will be very soon. His work already has caught the attention of collectors worldwide and hangs in many museums next to art by some of the greatest painters ever known.
After the 2018 Cannes Film Festival ended, James Picard is now solidly front and center within the world of art film, and multimedia. I’ve been to his Vancouver, B.C. studio and recently saw the short film at a packed private showing. It was paired with two other short documentaries about James and his prolific talent. The accolades are all well deserved. First, it was art collectors. Now it is the film industry that is clamoring at his door to be part of this one-of-a-kind full-length documentary. The future is very exciting, as things come more clearly into focus.
LAUGH THROUGH YOUR TEARS
The visual experience is truly chilling and unforgettable. The perfectly partnered music is scored by film composer Jeff Danna, (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus). It’s an immersive artistic experience which represents “a visionary fusion of Expressionism and social consciousness.” The documentary is both humorous and yet filled with the most poignant universal human despair. It opens our capacity to heal ourselves. Even in a brief time, it gives us a bruised-yet-hopeful a bitterly ironic-yet-humorous glimpse into how we can, and we must prevail. We carefully walk the thin line between the graphic tragedies that play across our daily life. They are fed to us by the media and bureaucracy. We now experience our own lives through a world of #FakeNews, #MeToo, and #NeverAgain.
TRUTH IS MORE TRAGIC THAN FICTION
James Picard’s life and his passion for art, healing and helping are truly the stuff that makes a film great. This is the kind of story where you say: “This could not possibly be true.” It’s the thought process that pushes our boundaries around the role of the family. This is especially true regarding the concept of nature vs nurture and the unthinkable limits of abuse, brutality and tragic loss. It makes us question what levels of loss and deprivation can fuel a total dedication to your craft. The specter of risk and loss on every level always lies painfully close to the surface. So, too, does the acceptance of being in the moment and acknowledging your passion and purpose despite the pain. Only then can you transcend the suffering.
Picard’s intimate familiarity with The Dark & The Wounded tragically started with physical, mental and emotional abuse, from a time when his alcoholic father burned and destroyed over 300 of his works, to a life-changing epiphany that grew from the senseless and random murder in New York of his beloved older sister. “Everything is so fragile, and from that moment, then and there, I wanted to focus my life on my art. I was going ‘wow, she’s gone, and I’m still here.’” As if that were not enough, he ended up destitute and homeless. Losing his car with all of his art supplies only fueled his passion and determination, so he created art using sticks as charcoal in the park.
A NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
Even recently, his full- length documentary was postponed by a near-death experience. A very aggressive and nasty antibiotic-resistant bacteria in his left hand created tremendous swelling, which in turn caused compartment syndrome. Tremendous pressure cut off the nerve and the blood supply to his left hand. Picard was anesthetized and sent to the operating room, to have his hand amputated. A specialist from London, who happened to be giving a talk in town on infectious disease, was advised of his dire condition. This doctor had recently diagnosed a similar case with this type of bacteria and knew about a new antibiotic for the same bacterial infection. With that information, the surgery was put on hold and James woke up from the scheduled surgery to discover his hand was still attached! It took seven surgeries, one every few days, to repair the extensive damage.
He still has no feeling in his middle three fingers and only 60 percent mobility in his hand. This impairs his ability to indulge in his love of playing guitar and riding his motorcycle. Picard is still hopeful as small movement is starting to return. The deep wound is there as a companion to the constant pain. It is always reminding him of the ever-present darkness of impending personal loss, whether it is physical or emotional. Literally, on the other hand, his passion, creativity and determination shine through in every single piece of work, every poem. Each one bearing witness as a testament to his survival.
ORIGINS OF THE DARK & THE WOUNDED
When he started The Dark & The Wounded project it was in response to the disclosure by an older female friend whose father had raped her when she was very young, and about the lasting trauma of the Holocaust, aboriginal residential schools, racism,and homophobia. Once he embarked on this project, his own life was physically threatened several times including having a Molotov cocktail thrown at his studio. He definitely still looks over his shoulder when coming to his Vancouver studio, but it never deterred him.
A MAN OF INTEGRITY
The Dark & The Wounded and Picard’s personal life offer us a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into ourselves as individuals and as a society. Hailed as the classic (and one of the most versatile painters) of our time, he easily transitions from the classics to his extremely prolific work in charcoal, sketching, watercolors, oil, chalk, Contè and sculpture. His Classical influences are Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet. His work has graced many private and public collections. He has also created artwork for films that recreate the most famous artists and their art. Watch Tim Burton’s Big Eyes and most recently, Yellow.
James Picard was offered and turned down $1 million dollars for Apparition, one of his The Dark & The Wounded paintings from the series. It is a key piece of the exhibitions that have been shown in deserted mental institutions, prisons, Alcatraz and beyond. As Picard is a man of the most sincere passion and purpose, the entire body of work will stay intact in the traveling exhibit and for his upcoming full-length documentary. The most current offer is higher. Again, he declined. Nothing he does is driven by money, although money will allow him to grow his philanthropic reach. While at Cannes, he was challenged to a new commission with very high stakes. It involves a seemingly impossible timeline, but Picard is confident and optimistic that the work will be delivered on time and beyond the client’s expectation. Sleep is the first thing that goes by the wayside when his creative juices and deadlines are on the line. After all, he just was in Hollywood to celebrate the accolades for 42 paintings he created for the film Yellow.
Picard understands that money cannot change the past and is no guarantee for the future. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why he invests his time and money into children facing the most life-threatening challenges.
The upcoming European and Russian tour will continue to take the series to places of torture, death and abuse of every kind. Events are taking place in some of Europe’s darkest and most wounded places, such as the White Chapel (tying in with Jack the Ripper), the Tower of London, and at Oradour-sur-Glane, the abandoned town left as a monument in France by Charles de Gaulle (it was destroyed in 1944 by the Nazis). As well, Picard is looking at the Paris Catacombs and other locations that still send chills or terror and horror down our spines. The finale will be set in a place known all over the world as the ultimate symbol of fear. Within each culture, healing can take place as the work challenges everyone to acknowledge the universality of pain and suffering on many different levels. The feature film documentary will be the result of filming in all these locations and is scheduled to be released within a year. Picard is now being wooed by major studios who recognize the unique nature of this documentary and the artistic and directorial talent that he brings to it.
“I TRY TO DO LOTS OF THINGS TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT…EVERY SINGLE DAY I’M ON THE PLANET.”
“Only through acceptance can we become more compassionate about each other. In each of us there are wounds, emotional scars, trauma, abuse, abandonment, and fear” he adds, “Some wounds are deeper than others, but all result in suffering. We can heal our wounds which in turn can heal ourselves, our families, our society and the world in which we all live.” There is no doubting his passion or compassion.
He elaborates, clarifies and warns anyone who will listen; “These wounds, found in the dark regions of the human psyche, if ignored, manifest in other ways. Fear, anger, racism, violence, isolation, homophobia and denial are all results of not healing those wounds inside.” Picard has little time for those who are selfish, bigoted and self absorbed. “The people I relate to best are people who are driven and possess an incredible feeling for life and death. They are courageous and fearless and take incredible risks. They have incredible discipline and the capacity for huge sacrifice. They march through life like a soldier storming the beaches of Normandy vulnerable, risking death to follow their passions. Some make it, some mortally wounded, some completely destroyed but … these are my comrades, my brethren, my brothers in arms. The ones who strive for comfort and mediocrity and do not have a belief worth dying for, I have no interest in.” Still, he feels everything deeply. Or put another way, “Sometimes when my sadness is so very deep, all I can do is paint.” He is a beacon that brings light to darkness.
BE A VOICE FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
Picard’s experiences, both his own and those whose lives he has touched, have all brought him to come to this sense of being at peace with life and death. “Death will come for us all. Use that knowledge to live compassionately with love and understanding for ourselves and each other. Let go of the small things that do not matter, embrace what’s important and leave a legacy that inspires others. As I continue to live my life, I will strive to live and give a voice for those who are no longer with us and continue to be an example of what we can achieve as human beings and what a great legacy we can leave behind.”
The Dark & The Wounded is not what you think, it is what makes you feel. In fact, it is virtually impossible NOT to feel. While Picard’s art and the film stirs up your deepest and sometimes darkest thoughts, feelings and emotions, it does not leave you there. In fact, the journey each viewer embarks upon is meant to clearly bring you to the light. Your personal Light, Hope, Salvation. Knowing that you are part of something much bigger than yourself. You matter. “Beyond Fear….there is Freedom.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT JAMES PICARD AND HIS WORK:
Enjoy The Artist Known as Picard
Click here to learn more about his upcoming exhibitions and progress on his possible TV series and full-length documentary.
To see more of James Picard’s art, check out his Facebook page for PicardStudios.
Watch for Part II in Luxe Beat Magazine about James Picard’s humanitarian and philanthropic passion to make a difference in the world.