A few weeks ago I got an email from Patrick Friel, who is a connoisseur and historian of avant-garde and experimental film and video. He’s the one who contacted me back in 2003 to let me know that one of my old 16mm films was being shown in Chicago as part of a celebration for the 30th anniversary of Chicago Filmmakers Coop, a respected alternative film venue.
It was great to get that call, since it had been years since I stopped making films and returned to painting. I started making films as a way to “paint with light,” and dove in with a passion which I was sure would change the art world forever. But after having about a hundred showings in colleges and museums in the US, Europe and Scandinavia, I discovered that there were only a handful of people in the (then) free world who had a clue what I was doing.
16mm film making was expensive, too, so I retreated and went back to experimenting with painting. After about ten years I developed a style of contemporary Impressionism which is still evolving.
Let me say here that one aspect of art making which I find extremely interesting is what I call a “trance effect.” Others call it “being in the zone” or operating from a “higher consciousness.” Either way, what it means is that when an artist has mastered his materials and craft, art can be created from deep within his being. This state of extreme concentration is exclusive to the moment, in that external stimulation is shut out. I also think of this effect as if it is a dream state from deep sleep.
There is a residual effect from all that art-making. So, when Patrick called in 2003 I was essentially deep asleep, immersed in waves of soft creativity. I knew that my films were out there in museum collections and a few coops, but it all seemed far away and long ago.
I woke up! In the ensuing weeks, Patrick opened my eyes to new digital media, and convinced me to make another film. I did. It was called “New Kisses”, and I created it on mini-DV, and edited on a mac with final cut. (I had to take lessons on how to edit.)
But like Rip Van Winkle, who woke up to find that not only had the world changed but that he had grown older and changed, too, I discovered that something in me had unexpectedly evolved. I wasn’t happy to start making new films the way I used to. I needed something else– I wanted to write a feature film and direct it. So I did! (The result is “Bruce Wood’s The Door” — find it on Amazon/ ask for it on Netflix)
Patrick had no idea what he had set in motion! So here it is, half way through 2009, and he wants to put together a retrospective show of several of my old films. It will be held in a few weeks, in a storefront theater in Chicago, which he promises has a killer projection system.
He wants me to be there for the show, but I’m in Boston taking care of my elderly father, and the obligation to be here is more important than the show. Patrick has the answer, though. I will talk to the audience via Skype! What a hoot! This will be fabulous!