Short Bit: David Lynch, the Retrospective at Pennsylvania Academy

I just finished Twin Peaks last night. I am very glad I watched this early 90’s soup opera murder mystery directed by David Lynch. Despite being canceled after two seasons, it gathered a large cult following, and I can see why. It was ahead of its time for featuring complex idiosyncratic characters like Agent Dale Cooper, pretty impressive set designs and just over all stunning cinematography. So I decided I wanted to know more about director David Lynch. Well it turns out my timing could not have been more perfect as the Pennsylvania Academy is hosting a retrospective of his work titled “David Lynch: The Unified Field,” starting Sept. 13. I was, as you can imagine very excited to discover that Lynch was a trained and skilled visual artist as will as phenomenal director. I don’t think its too much to suppose that his background in art making facilitated in part his success as a film and tv show director.

Here is an article about the exhibition I encourage you to read:

My favorite part of this article is this quote from executive director of the Drawing Center in New York Brett Littman, “He’s not James Franco.” Mr. Littman, who curated a smaller show of Lynch’s photographs and works on paper, is referring to the art world’s collective hesitation in embracing Lynch’s work. Often art administrators become suspicious of actors and musicians claiming they are artists also. But thankfully Robert Cozzolino, the senior curator of the Pennsylvania Academy, saw fit to gather five decades worth of paintings and drawings form Lynch and organize this retrospective.

Lynch’s paintings fascinated me. As a collection they are dark, atmospheric renderings that feature ambiguous images on richly worked surfaces. He gives them names like “Rat Meat Bird” and “Nothing Is Making Any Sense For Instance Why Is That Boy Bleeding From The Mouth” that cause me to reflect on visceral and bodily topics reminding me how venerable my body is to injury. Some of the paintings even look much like open wounds. He also has a series of drawings titled “Bunch” featuring thick black marks of abstract design on tan colored paper. Some of the imagery contained in this series are skulls, bones, simplified architecture, and graphic markings.

Lynch claims there is no logic to his paintings saying that,”What I’m trying to do with each canvas is create a situation in which the paint can be itself, which means letting go of any rationalization. It’s important to let ideas blossom without too much judging or interference…Your intellect can hold back so many wonderful, fantastic things. Without logic or reason, there’s always something else, something unseen.”

I found Lynch’s website and it turns out that Lynch makes his designs furniture and many of the props for the sets of his shows, composes soundscapes, and writes song lyrics. Lynch is truly a man of many talents and if you’re lucky enough to be near the Pennsylvania Academy you need to check out his retrospective.

As for me, I am going to have to start watching more of his movies on Netflix!

Oh, here’s the link to his website:

The Celebration of the Cameleon


Blind Man’s Experiment


Dr. Howl’s Philosophy

Rat Meat Bird

Dog And Child Near My House

Wounded Man as a Tree Creating Bugs

Bunch 3

Bunch 8

A Flea Holds It’s Head High

Billy Finds A Book of Riddles

Cardboard S


Now You’re in New York!: “In the AIr” by T.J. Wilcox

“In the Air” T. J. Wilcox

“In the Air” by conceptual film artist T.J. Wilcox, is a stunning panoramic film instillation at the Whitney that asks the viewer to consider the complex, entertaining relationship between New York and film. His new work makes you realize anew how perfect a match New York and film are for the other. I mean the pedestal upon which we have placed the shining city of New York (where dreams are made from) is largely constructed from famous movie moments. In a way, this piece is part narrative of New York, part exploration of the city’s reputation as cultivated by film, and part personal biography of Wilcox’s career in New York.

The following quote from Roberta Smith describes Wilcox’s set up well:

“This piece centers on an in-the-round bird’s-eye view of Lower Manhattan that was shot from the artist’s studio, the 18th-floor penthouse of a building on Union Square, and compresses the passing of one day into 30 minutes. Like the old-style panorama, it appears on a circular screen, one that is about 7 feet high and 35 feet in diameter. Hanging about four and a half feet above the floor, it’s like a giant lampshade.”—, Art Practical

Although Wilcox’s is best known for shorter projections,— films only a few minutes long (and often looped) that are pieced together from all kinds of existing footage— with “In the Air” he goes BIG, and the effect is astounding. This project began from his reaction to the 360-degree view from his own studio, he descrbes the moment as initial paralysis followed by compete awe of the city’s ageless majesty. Consistent with his preference for lower-tech gear, he downgraded his equipment from five complicated cameras to the same number of relatively small, rugged, inexpensive GoPros. He also found he improved resolution by switching from filming to shooting stills. And he prayed for sun skies, but dotted with clouds so the stills would have some interest.

And after much trial and error and some uncooperative weather, in July Wilcox was finally able to shoot about 15 hours’ worth of a single day in the life of New York City. He ended up with 60,000 stills, shot at a rate of one per second. These were individually processed, and then animated and sped up using a computer program that seamlessly stitched the views together, eliminating distortions and evening light levels.

The final result is pure majesty and clarity. The wraparound vista portrays a timeless living record of New York that is ethereal and yet absolutely personal. By omitting the details of street traffic and storefronts, the ageless and eternal grandeur of the city can be fully appreciated. The sights include the Con Edison clock tower, Zeckendorf Towers, Freedom Tower and the West Side, with glimpses of the Hudson and New Jersey. The sun pushes shadows from many sets of clouds in different shades and shapes across the masses of architecture; airplanes arrive and depart; the lights of the city come on and then dim, as the sun returns.

But that is not all. Superimposed on the panorama are six short cameo-films that pull us from one place or era, one event or personality to another, across varying film methods, between color and black and white. The cameos appear one at a time on different parts of the screen, each with its own title, forming a carefully linked loop of narratives. Some draw on Wilcox’s life, like “On the Horizon” which remembers the prominent fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez by stringing together images of his work, film footage, stills of him and also of break dancers performing in his studio. The Con Edison tower in the backgrounds of some images of the break dancers are within sight of Mr. Lopez’s former studio just across the square.

My own reaction to this piece is to consider how it portrays the singularity of New York, its diversity of people, and cultural resources, and yet concurrently represents a non-discrimatory haven for all. Even though the city is a shining beacon for lofty ambitions, it is still a place for all, and it’s spectacular reputation never imposes an ostentatious barrier to anyone seeking to make it their home.

To read more about the exhibit and see a picture— sorry! I could not find any really good quality ones, maybe I will search again later after its been up for awhile— then follow this link to Art Practical:


Why You May Never See This Classic Movie Poster Again | Erik Sharkey

Why You May Never See This Classic Movie Poster Again | Erik Sharkey.

Oh yes! This is so true! There are too few artists like Drew Struzan working in advertising. But of course the speed and quality of digital art being what it is, marketing agencies don’t want to sacrifice the fast results of digital art for hands on methods. But no matter how good computer art is, there will always be the missing touch of the human element in those prints. I think Guillermo Del Toro described it best when he said, ” Drew created a love affair that will last a lifetime. This other stuff is a one night stand.”