Like any good collagists, we wrote some questions, picked them out of a hat, and answered them.

 

When did you first see Lew’s work? How old were you? Where were you? What did you see? What did you think?

 

Fern:

I saw Deep Fish Tank Birding and Fish Tank, Too on a mix tape when I lived in Boston. There was a video store in Porter Sq. that had a box of cult videos you could rent/buy. I remember them also having a bunch of music videos by the Frogs too, and Richard Kern films. I must have been 20.  I appreciated how raw they felt formally, the figure forever falling through space, planets, earth, ocean, pages - never hitting the bottom but all the while visiting and being visited.

 

Jodie:

Definitely a VHS moment for sure. When I first saw Lew’s work, I was 22. Jim Trainor handed me a VHS tape of Picture Books for Adults and told me to get on my way. I remember seeing  Candy 16, the piece with the Candy Girl soundtrack – an audio recording invitation to a party, possibly on one of those recordable flexi-discs. I had been familiar with other motion collage artists by that time – Larry Jordan, Martha Colburn, Frank Mouris, etc. – but Lew’s work had a different flavor that truly inspired me. It was rough and ready, and it looked like the stuff I was capable of making at the time. I liked how unapologetically raw it felt.

 

How do you see Lew’s strategies relating to our own, in terms of crossover with his sense of portals and transitory spaces?

 

Fern:

I’m not sure. I wish my work could move through as many environments as Lew’s does. Well, at least I would wish that through a single character. I think about Lost Camel Intentions a lot because it deals with various perspectives and environments. The main figure has no identity, no association to a culture or part of the world, a skeleton that’s crashed a plane, walks across a desert, curiously touches a flesh/muscle/blob, and takes off again in a hot air balloon. I try to use film in ways that expand and collapse time, where maybe we can jump from one period to the next, one geographical location to another and the historical complications of a portrayed place as opposed to the actual place. Shooting actual film takes care of the expansion/collapse of time, at least for the last 100 years as opposed to the 4/5 year look/resolution of a video image.

 

Jodie:

Well, Lew would not call himself an animator as much of a re-animator. At this point I’m calling myself one who resurrects. So, we have these commonalities as far as giving life to “dead” materials through the cinematic space. One reason I got into under-the-camera animation is that there’s a lot of fun to experience in backing oneself into a hole and working your way out. When the shooting is unplanned, one can take liberties in how to transition from space to space. Lew is a master of these transitions – be it gradually adding or removing light or bringing in solid or patterned materials to begin and end scenes (much like proscenium curtains or early special effect masks).

 

 

Max Hammer, Stained Glass Daydream (collage made by a student of Jodie)

 

Another through line in our films is popular music. How do you see that aligning with your work?

 

Fern:

I’d like to think pop music in our films make brief appearances, a universal marker of sorts to be pulled in and out of, making metaphorical connections with the image. I think that in some ways it really sets the mood for Lew’s films since you tend to hear the entirety of the track.

 

Jodie:

 “Sittin here thinkin’ about the happy times we used to have…. Sittin’ here crying….”

Sorry, just wanted to sing along to the Lew film that gets me every time… In your most recent film Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder, there is a section where the Velvet Underground line repeats: “sometimes I feel so sad”. When I saw this for the first time, actually, Lew was one of the first people that came to mind, not because of the use of music, but because of the repetition. I love how in some of Lew’s works the songs will just repeat two or three times. As so much of his work is pre-music video, it speaks to how these songs filtered into everyone’s aural vernacular and could play out over and over, the way they do on the radio. The songs become archetypes of collective emotional experience. This is a similar treatment to his cutouts, which are also sourced from popular imagery.

 

Jodie Mack, (Photo) From Lew’s Studio

 

How about popular culture?

 

Fern:

Yes, I appreciate how much of a baseball fan he is and how we all got to spend some time at the Dodgers game last year. I guess in some ways collage is a lot like baseball, especially if you’re shooting single frames. Innings can be like sections/scenes of a project, no room for “error”, tedious and slow moving… consuming junk food and beer…

 

Jodie:

Yes, and big foam fingers swaying in the wind! It adds to the absurdity and ideas surrounding non-sequiturs introduced by collage artists like Schwitters, Ernst, Le Corbusier, etc! I remember that Dodgers game! It was so fun. I like how Lew isn’t afraid to engage with high-brow activities and popular activities alike. He’s also a thorough cinephile, music lover, reader, amateur art historian, etc. To him, there’s seemingly no divide. He could get equally excited about a painting in a museum as he is to meet a popular comic artist. When he recently visited me in Vermont, I introduced him to Steve Bissette, who created a lot of the monsters for the Swamp Thing comics and other horror-based graphic art.   He was so excited! This all comes through – not only Lew’s work (creating the sublime from kitsch) but also in his teaching. He can see where people want to go – even if they can’t.

 

Fern:

I can imagine him being the type of teacher that would look at your work in the most encouraging ways, he’s so perceptive and small details for him are paramount, a slight tilt or turn making the difference. I realized this when we went to see the Monsoon paintings at LACMA. They were tiny but filled with mood and detail, I understood why he suggested it. Even walking out of that exhibition, everything else we looked at was in some way related to those paintings (on the subject of water) and the conversations we were having, a sort of mental collage with connections between works, a shared method in practice I guess. Certainly felt that way when we were admiring the reflections of light from the street/cars bouncing off the back wall at Canter’s and tilting up and down to their colorful ceiling.

 

Jodie:

So true! And, he catches references with cunning precision. He is able to parse meaning and value from seemingly insignificant things. He also sees [dis]continuity through sequential works. This was truly evident to me when watching 66. I’d seen a lot of the films as modules before, but the way the motifs undulated back and forth as a larger and longer sequences proved the virtues of his vision. And, he doesn’t just save that for himself. Actually, I embarked on my flicker-film concentrations per his suggestion. He came to a screening of mine in LA in 2009. It was an hour long, full of things I’d worked on for years. He pinpointed this one little thing that I thought was a one off experiment. And he said, “do that again, that’s where you need to go”.  Now there’s like fifteen or more of those films. When he spoke those words, It was like music to my ears!

 

Fern:

That reminds me, I have to get a hold of him for his Spotify playlists.

 

Jodie:

That would mean you need to learn how to download Spotify first ;)

 

Fern:

I know how to download Spotify! I thought you just wave the foam finger in the air until the bluteooth pairs with your device…

 

Jodie:

You have to stand on one foot, though.

LAUGH TRACK.

Yes. Above all, he’s not only talented, intelligent, and dedicated. He’s also very generous to young people. We owe a lot to him; he was very supportive to us early on and continues this support. If we ever need an eye or an ear, he will surely lend it to us. And, he’ll be honest. He doesn’t just blow smoke…

 

Fern:

Into your baseball glove, unless he’s throwing a four-seamer.

 

Jodie:

No, he saves the smoke for the mirrors because he’s certainly a four-seamer of nature!

 

 

Fern Silva and Jodie Mack

 

January, 2018