Los Angeles-based film artist Jennifer West brings new meaning to the words "moving pictures." Her wildly engaging films, now on view in "Mascara and Mussels" at Franklin Art Works, are made by manipulating film negatives with unusual objects and processes in order to create pieces that are like abstract works in motion.
For example, in Just Kids Film Necklace- for Patti Smith, West laid a 100-foot-long necklace on top of a film negative, then exposed the material with colored flashlights. West made the film in front of a live audience in Rome, Italy. Students handled the flashlights as the necklace was laid on top of the 65 mm film negative.
The necklace from the work is also exhibited at the gallery. Hung on the east wall of Franklin Art Works' back room, it's made of pasta and mussel shells collected in Rome, as well as seashells, eucalyptus pods, and feathers from California.
In a way, the film is the last stage of a piece of performance art. The negative undergoes a kind of performance, in this case by the students changing the material as they work with the colored lights and the necklace. There's a sense of touch, and of light, intricately linked to the film's creation that live on residually in the final product.
The result of West's process is wonderfully mesmerizing. The textures and colors created by the lights and objects create a rich, fast-moving series of images. The gallery floor is set up complete with blankets and pillows, inviting viewers to relax and watch the show.
West's other film being exhibited, Mascara Warshak Film, is made from 35mm film brushed with different color mascaras: black, deep purple, and azure blue. The process creates a bright, fast-moving splotchiness that draws you into its alluring movement.
There's something very sexy about Mascara Warshak Film, with its elusive moments of exhilarating color. Like Just Kids Film Necklace- For Patti Smith, the final film carries with it the process that was undergone to create it. After all, mascara symbolizes flirtation, particularly in this case when the colors are drawn from such a bold palate. That sensuality resonates with the final product, even if you don't know how the process was made.
"Mascara and Mussels" exhibits along with John Houck's "Aggregates" through October 29 at Franklin Art Works. Check out the clip below to see Rainbow Party, another film made by West, created with film kissed and impressed with teeth marks by the artist and her former students.