Radiating Visions: A Tribute to Creative Film Society

By Angeline Pike
January 1, 1994

Screening program notes from Scratching the Belly of the Beast catalogue, 1994

Curated by Angie Pike

Robert Pike founded the Creative Film Society in 1957 with the intention of forming an organization to represent the independent film artist and to promote film specifically as an art form. The emphasis n experimental films helped bring to the surface many new production techniques and formal styles while exploring the use of both animation and live action to depict consciousness.

From the hundreds of titles in the CFS library, I have chosen works by film artists who are still involved in the filmmaking industry. These films· have contributed greatly to film as an art form, serving as reflections of our society and our culture.

It seems appropriate to begin with Bob Pike’s Desire in a Public Dump, a surrealistic fantasy about a derelict, a dump, and Death in the form of a beautiful woman. Oskar Fischinger’s works are a prestigious part of the CFS collection. His abstract, absolute film art is known the world over. Motion Painting No. 1 is a brilliant piece of animation in which Fischinger paints on plexiglass, photographing the paintings frame by frame and deftly creating a masterpiece. Dan McLaughlin introduced “kinestasis” in God is Dog Spelled Backwards – 3,000 years of art in 3 ½ minutes! Dan is a professor of animation at UCLA where he continues to make films. In the same vein of kinestasis, David Lebrun photographed Tibetan scrolls in the award-winning Tanka. Lebrun is active in video and filmmaking in the art world. The Towers is an outstanding documentary by William Hale depicting Simon Rodia building the Watts Towers. The film is a classic and Hale went on to direct feature films, an occupation he still enjoys. Art Clokey experimented with clay in Gumbasia, and thus Gumby was born. Art is currently producing Gumby segments in Sausalito. While working with clay and animating the inanimate have been accomplished by many, Jim Wokuluk’s Melon Madness is certainly a favorite example of claymation. The film features the singing voice of John Denver as he crooms “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy.” The narration of pictorial splendor captures the majesty of Robert Frost’s poetry in Tuft of Flowers. Ivan and David Dryer produced the film for the Haboush Company, and Ivan went on to form laserimages. He produced many of the Laserium programs at the Griffith Park Observatory, among other “futuristic” pursuits. James Leonard shared the philosophy and forms of Tai Chi Chuan in a short piece titled White Crane Spreads Wings. Pure talent and genius are evidenced in Sara Petty’s Furies, an award-winning animated short executed in charcoal and pastels, expressing the intense experiences of a cat. Sara paints, makes films, and currently resides in Aptos, California. Robert Swarthe’s sense of humor and perfect timing are clear in Kick Me. Painting directly on film, Swarthe adds another trophy to his long list of credits in short and feature films. Tony Venezia’s Passages utilizes animation and motion control to create a haunting experience of exquisite imagery and musical synergy. Venezia has a production company specializing in motion control graphics.