When Diane Keaton likes something, she dives in head first. When her friend, makeup artist Collier Strong, gave Keaton a new photo book of ventriloquist dummies by photographer and director Matthew Rolston, titled Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits (Pointed Leaf Press), she was astonished. Soon she was hosting a book party for Rolston along with art collector Kay Saatchi and Joel Chen, at Chen's antiques and vintage furniture gallery, JF Chen.
The May event in Los Angeles for the book included a pop-up gallery of a handful of Rolston's oversized dummy portraits. The 100 ventriloquist dummies photographed in the book were from the obscure Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, the world's lone museum dedicated to ventriloquism. Rolston is a renowned photographer and has directed music videos for Michael Jackson, En Vogue, David Bowie, New Kids on the Block, Madonna, Eurythmics, George Michael, Mary J Blige, and a dozen other bold-faced music names; this is his first fine art project.
Keaton is actress, author, and collector of American kitsch artwork, and her own obsessions have borne fruit in a 2002 book called Clown Paintings, images of the much-maligned genre taken from her personal collection. Keaton talked about the images, and also about her (visibly tipsy but adorably so) appearance on Ellen where she talked tantric sex: "For nine hours. Nine hours! That's ridiculous!"
Out: I really enjoyed your last appearance on Ellen.
Diane Keaton: That was dangerous, a very dangerous experience [Laughs]. But I had a lot of fun. What I really enjoyed though was her response. I'm an actress and it was always like--you take your behavior from what you're getting.
So in other words I'm looking at you, you're going, 'Sure.' You're shaking your head; you're smiling; I'm smiling. What was great about it was that she was so much fun to watch. But I think she was surprised, and that made it fun for me. It was so much fun to see her face watch me going, Are you kidding? What are you doing, Diane? I was having fun.
I'm thinking about your clowns book--
No, no, no. My clowns book is a pale pale--there's no real comparison.
Does this resonate with you?
Are you kidding? Really? I think this [Talking Heads] is a genius idea. Look at them, I've never see anything like it. Those faces--look at that mouth!
They're human...and grotesque--
And they're moving!
Figuratively... Had the puppets literarily been moving, the creepy factor would have sent guests running. Keaton even has one of the prints in her home, and her kids, initially a little afraid of "Uncle Eddie," are getting used to him.
Party guests included actor John C. Reilly (he didn't want to talk, we asked), television personality George Kotsiopoulos (E! Fashion Police), Grammy-winning lesbian songwriter Diane Warren, and designer Jeffrey Alan Marks (Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators).
"This very first effort in fine art was a passion project for me and I've been gratified by the art and design world's response to the work," Rolston explained during a Q&A at the end of the evening. "Many know me as a celebrity photographer but this community in particular has been warmly receptive to the fine art approach I have taken in these portraits." He plans to hold another event this summer in New York for the book.