Dressed as Edith Cushing from Crimson Peak, I entered the Minneapolis Institute of Art to visit Guillermo Del Toro’s At Home With Monsters exhibit. I held tickets for not only the exhibit, but for a Creative Conversations lecture, and a book signing. I was so excited, being a horror lover and an admirer of his work, I couldn’t wait to see everything and meet the master of horror himself. What I thought was so intriguing was that this wasn’t a showing of movie props alone, these were all items that come from Del Toro’s personal collection. During the Creative Conversation, he mentioned that he had to buy another house just to keep his collections. He calls it Bleak House.
Just as I entered and picked up my tickets at the information desk, I saw a small crowd gathering around the gift shop. I was on my way there anyway to pick up a book for the signing, so I walked toward the group to see what everyone was looking at. Guillermo Del Toro was walking through the gift shop and chatting with a few guests. He was so personable and although he may have only wanted to stop in momentarily, he was gracious enough to give everyone his attention. I stood there, my vertically challenged frame only allowing me to peer through the shoulders and elbows of strangers. I picked up a hardcover copy of a book about Crimson Peak, and thought about how excited it would be when he signed it.
The exhibit was spectacular and took about 2 hours or so to get through, considering I did my best to read every plaque and take as many photos as I could. The entrance set the tone for the exhibit with it’s blinking eyes that followed me in, and then I was greeted by the Angel of Death from Hellboy II. What was even more incredible was that a little ways in, another crowd formed. Again cursed with my lack of height, I couldn’t see, but I was told (and I could hear) that Guillermo Del Toro was walking around to talk about some of the items in the exhibit. You could hear how much he loved these items as he looked at them as if it were the first time.
Although every item was interesting to me, I had a few favorites that I gushed over. Many of these items were related to Crimson Peak, and as I heard the main melody play throughout the halls, it made me feel closer to it than ever. One of the rooms contained the black shrouded ghost of Edith’s mother, the images of butterflies blinking on the lace from an unseen projector. It only took moments to realize there were other wardrobe pieces in the room. I turned my head to see a massive display of three costumes posed on mannequins in front of a large portrait of Beatrice Sharpe donning the red jeweled ring on her finger. The costumes present were Edith’s white nightgown with a red soaked hem, Lucille’s crimson dress from the waltz, and Lucille’s blue dress from the very final scene featuring Edith’s voiceover. I could have lost all track of time in that room, I was so mesmerized by the detail.
Another portion of the exhibit that I found quite wonderful was the few framed art prints by Stephen Gammell. As soon as I spotted them right away it took me back to my childhood. One of my first, and favorite, series to read was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Stephen Gammell’s artwork was so memorable and beautiful, I read these books over and over! Something Del Toro said during his Creative Conversations was interesting as well. He said that when he buys art, whether its $10 or thousands, he has it matted, framed, and places it next to each other so that it’s all treated the same because it is loved the same. Even the way he talks about organizing his collection is like an artful dance.
A small section towards the end of the exhibit caught my eye. A group of cases held various vampire objects, but a red mask grabbed my attention. The small plaque said that I was looking at props from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the movie). I read it even though I already knew. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of my favorite movies, and by far one of the best vampire movies ever made. Featured in this case was the red mask and next to it on the wall, the cane. Beneath that case, props and busts from The Strain, Nosferatu, and Salem’s Lot.
In terms of classic monsters, probably the most prominent part of the entire exhibit (aside from the stunning Pan’s Labyrinth figures) was the large face of Frankenstein. It was, I’m sure, taller than I am and hung on the wall next to a 3-person wax figure scene of Dr. Frankenstein, his monster, and his monster’s bride. During the Creative Conversation, Del Toro said that his favorite monster is Frankenstein, as written by Mary Shelley. At the book signing he told the girl in front of me that that was the first book he bought to add to his library. It’s a beautifully tragic story, and easily one of the best classic horror films. The detail to these figures was so elaborate, I swore I could see them breathe.
I loved every art piece and every detail of this carefully curated exhibit, and even more I loved listening to the lecture and the book signing. When I approached the table dressed as Edith in my clearly homemade dress clutching my Crimson Peak book with clammy palms, he smiled at me and said that seeing that book in my hands made him so happy. I smiled and he said, “anyone who loves this as I love it is a good friend to me”. I couldn’t stop gushing as I told him that I loved Edith for her writing and for the fact that she was her own hero. He expressed that many people didn’t like that, as it was unfortunately pitched as a horror film. I said, “but it’s not because even Edith said, ‘this is not a ghost story'” and before I could finish, Guillermo continued the line, “it’s a story with ghosts in it.” We talked about how beautiful it was and the gothic romance of it all and he smiled saying that I had no idea how happy it made him to talk about Crimson Peak and to love it. I told him that I write horror too, and that Crimson Peak was …I struggled for the word momentarily, and he filled in saying, “this was an inspiration to you? That makes me so happy to hear that. You have no idea.” I smiled and tried to take in every moment and not forget a thing.
Walking away from the book signing table in my Edith Cushing dress with the echos of the Crimson Peak melody drifting through the great halls of the Institute of Art was surreal. As a fan, a writer, and a fellow lover of monsters, it could not have been better.
At Home With Monsters is at the Minneapolis Institute of Art from March 5th through May 28th. See more information and get tickets at www.artsmia.org.
If you’re interested in how to make your own Edith Cushing Waltz Dress, stay tuned. I’ll be linking the video tutorial and blog here as soon as I finish adding music. UPDATED!! Here’s the video tutorial…