Most genre fans have undoubtedly heard of and generally appreciate the works of Guillermo del Toro. The prolific director is known for films that often dabble in gothic horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction. Recently, the traveling exhibit, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters, organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and Art Gallery of Ontario, gave fans the opportunity to take a glimpse into Del Toro’s creative process as well as his own personal collections of art and inspiration.
I got the chance to view the exhibit – currently on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art – with my wife and mom in a pleasantly macabre mother’s day outing. The exhibit is set up thematically rather than as a chronology of his films; the layout takes one through different rooms dedicated to visions of death and the afterlife, explorations of magic, occultism, horror, and monsters, and representations of innocence and redemption. Moving from room to room, one is continuously watched by the silent eyes of the life-like models of del Toro’s famous monsters, as well as greeted by the innumerable pieces of artwork, models, props and comic books reflecting his fascination with the occult, dark fairy tales and fables, pulp science fiction and horror, and genre history.
Del Toro’s creativity stems a lot from his fascination with fairy tales and monsters. Creatively, his sense of morbidity draws heavily from the influences of Poe and Lovecraft, and conceptually he draws significant inspiration from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. He has a strong fascination with monsters (something him and I share), but more specifically he sees a kind of duality within abnormal creatures that can allow for deeper storytelling such as the monster representing a source of tragedy or sympathy rather than evil.
The exhibit also highlights del Toro’s childhood growing up in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in a strict Catholic household. Highlighted is his tumultuous relationship with Catholicism as child that ultimately led to recurring themes in his works of childhood innocence, sacrifice, and the dangers/evils of the quest for “everlasting life.”
Fans of Guillermo del Toro’s films will see props, models and artwork from Cronos (1993), Mimic (1997), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015), as well as countless other works from which he’s drawn inspiration.
Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters will be on display as a special exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art through May 28th.