Watch the trailer for Faythe Levine and Sam Macon’s Sign Painters documentary
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Milwaukee artist Faythe Levine has never been one to sit still. In addition to organizing the annual Art Vs. Craft fair, curating the Sky High Gallery in Bay View, and producing the 2009 documentary Handmade Nation, Levine has been working on an ambitious project—along with former Milwaukeean Sam Macon—about the world and lost art of American sign painters. (If that seems like a strange subject, consider that a full-length documentary was once made about a font.) According to the Sign Painters website:
There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. But, like many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the techno-fueled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade.
In 2010 filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon began documenting these dedicated practitioners, their time-honored methods, and their appreciation for quality and craftsmanship. Sign Painters, the first anecdotal history of the craft, features the stories of more than two dozen sign painters working in cities throughout the United States.
Levine and Macon’s Sign Painters book was published last fall by Princeton Architectural Press; now, the trailer for the accompanying film has been released. There’s no word yet on a local screening, but this colorful (and playful, and sometimes vulgar) trailer should be enough to whet your appetite.