Guillermo Del Toro’s Collection Of Creatures

Del Toro's LACMA collection exhibits the wide spread of his creative influences.

At first glance, creatures and monsters seem scary because they’re different; whether they be grotesque, haunting, creepy or threatening, the creatures of the night come off simultaneously as otherworldly and bestial, like a ravenous wolf or a hungry bear, driven by an undecipherable will that seems to conflict with our own.

But when you watch one of Guillermo del Toro’s films, you realize that monsters aren’t as scary as they are morbidly interesting.

The truth of the matter is that monsters are a reflection of us. Even more, they’re an attempt at giving form to what we can’t quite explain. A Titan that holds the world on his shoulders. Pegasi that drag the Sun across the heavens. Giant Catfish that shake the Earth. These are all creatures that have given life and form to the unexplainable phenomena happening all around us.

But as we become more advanced and the mysteries of the world around us are revealed by scientific observation, the monsters that pervade our collective conscience spring from a more inward place: vampires that greedily and lustily suck the life out of others, ghosts that haunt our memories with unforgotten grudges and atrocities, Satan and his coterie quietly whispering sins into our ears. The larger-than-life figures that explain broader physical unknowns make way for more psychological representatives of humanity’s moral ambiguity.

Del Toro’s films continue humanity’s use of monsters in myths and stories to give expression to the aspects of the world and humanity that we have a murkier understanding of, combining the oral and written storytelling tradition with striking, hauntingly expressive images that arise from a meticulous filmmaking approach, a series of thematic balances, and a strong base of storytelling history, all of which are proudly displayed at the LACMA’s At Home With Monsters exhibit.

The exhibit itself is a reproduction of Del Toro’s Bleak House, the home that normally holds his vast collection of collectibles and objects of inspiration. Despite its maze-like organization, there is an openness to the exhibit that reflects the way Del Toro’s interests bleed into one another.

The collection on display is organized by eight themes; Childhood and Innocence, Victoriana, The Rain Room, Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult, Movies, Comics, Pop Culture, Frankenstein and Horror, Freaks and Monsters and Death and the Afterlife. While the Childhood and Innocence section had more expected objects like a statue of the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth and concept art from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland, there are also surprises throughout the exhibit, like Hellboy’s portrait in the Victoriana section, or the elegant landscape paintings of Eyvind Earle.

Dotted around the exhibit are small touch screens that display pages of Del Toro’s journals, full of written ponderings, outlines and colorful sketches of the creatures that would later take a more developed form onscreen. There is also a series of monitors laced throughout the exhibit displaying five-minute-long montages of scenes from Del Toro’s films, pieced together by Javier Soto, that are linked by connective and recurrent themes like Childhood and Innocence, Beauty and Brutality and Death and Resurrection.

Surrounding the montage screenings of Del Toro’s films with a bunch of the figures, books, paintings and various paranormal, supernatural ephemera emphasizes the wide range of influences that kicked Del Toro’s imagination into overdrive. Though he’s very much an original artist, Del Toro is unafraid to hang his influences on display, perhaps with the hope of inspiring future storytellers to try and explore the seemingly threatening corners they don’t understand, but aren’t afraid to explore.