Karen Maness’ dossier includes a list of impressive titles: Texas Performing Arts Scenic Art Supervisor, scenic artist, studio artist, UT instructor, and now, author. The book, The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, co-authored by Maness and Richard M. Isackes, is lauded as “the definitive behind-the-scenes history” of the painted backdrops that populated iconic Hollywood films and the artists behind them.
With film’s increasing reliance on CGI, preserving the history and knowledge of this art form is more important than ever. For many artists featured in the book, this will be the first time their work will be publicly recognized. “We are placing them in history and making the formerly invisible artists, visible,” said Maness. “[We’re] crediting them for their work and also identifying the paintings that we’ve all seen in films but never recognized as paintings and it’s tremendous! These people were responsible for painting some of the largest paintings in history and they were completely invisible to the audience.”
For Maness, this book represents just the start of a long road ahead: “This work to me is not done...yet. The book is beautiful and the history is so vast and there are so many artists that I don’t know the names of yet. I feel an obligation. If I don’t pick up this history, I’m not sure who will and I want to leave enough trails behind me that when I’m dead and gone somebody else can...I’ve learned so much from [these scenic artists] as a painter and as a teacher. It’s such a gift to me in that sense, this project.“