Genius is readily appreciated on a gallery wall or around a dinner table, but it can be hard going in the role of parent. That’s one lesson learned from “Child of Giants,” a son’s-eye view of two iconic 20th-century American artists, painter Maynard Dixon and photographer Dorothea Lange. Tom Ropelewski’s docu affords a skillful overview of their work and influence while measuring the toll taken on impressionable young minds they tried to mold in their own image. Artscasters rep a natural destination before a long classroom shelf life.
The celebrated duo’s Western-style bohemianism, modernist aesthetics and liberal politics influenced their personal lives in unpredictable ways. Money-pinched in the early Depression, they more or less abandoned their offspring to foster homes for long stretches to focus on their careers. Once that ended (and Lange left Dixon for Berkeley economist Paul Schuster), the boys were subject to idiosyncratic yet demanding educational and other regimes. While younger John coped via passive cooperation, Daniel (the primary interviewee here) rebelled, at one point preferring homelessness to Mom’s strict rule, though they reconciled and became close later on. Plentiful archival materials illustrate this engaging, well-crafted chronicle.