My Indiana Muse
directed by Ric Serena and Jen Serena
starring Robert Townsend and Cheryl Berea
Artist Robert Townsend dotes on mid-century Americana. He finds old cars and match books and advertising and turns them into fine art by painting precise, detailed replicas on canvas. His goal is to have his painting look more real than real, and he’s darn good at this. In his search for material, he bought a box of vacation slides and fell in love with the confident, archetypal 1950s female he discovered in every frame. His new muse wore a wig, stylish clothes and posed beautifully. All her pictures were keepers.
Once he competed his first painting based on the slides, he was able to find the source: a recently deceased woman in small town Indiana. We follow Townsend as he goes for visit. There he meets the niece Cheryl Berea and learns the story of a woman who married her sweetheart at 18 and raised a family, and stayed with him for 65 wonderful years. She represents the American Ideal of the post war era: prosperous, confident, living in a modern house and enjoying all the modern amenities the era offered.
Now Townsend has 3000 slides of this happy family, he’s heard her life story, and met her descendants. We even get to see the house she lived in: a well-preserved house with precious few compromises with modernity. In the home stretch here, we watch Serena paint one of his hyper realistic images. This one is a group shot from a Hawaiian vacation taken when John Kennedy was still around. We see him paint in time lapse. The image emerges not so much as a Kodachrome developer but like life: one small insignificant piece after another that creates a masterpiece.