Sara Kathryn Arledge


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Born in Mojave, CA on Sept. 28, 1911. After studying at UC Berkeley and Columbia University, Arledge was active in Pasadena in the 1930s-1950s. She taught at the University of Oklahoma in 1933-44 and University of Arizona in 1945-46. She is one of the undeservedly neglected figures in the American experimental cinema. Although her two major works, INTROSPECTION and WHAT IS A MAN?, were completed in 1946 and 1958, respectively, neither was screened with any frequency until the late 1970s. In his book The Exploding Eye, Wheeler Winston Dixon has written, "Along with Maya Deren and Marie Menken, Sara Kathryn Arledge is one of the foremothers of the American experimental cinema, who worked tirelessly to perfect her art during the span of several decades when she was one of the few practitioners of independent cinema."

INTROSPECTION was begun in 1941 and was the first abstract dance film made in the United States. Along with Maya Deren's A Study in Choreography for Camera, also made in the mid-'40s, Arledge's film pioneered the genre that came to be known as "cine-dance." WHAT IS A MAN?, her second film, is a series of vignettes which ponder the "alienation" of modern man and woman. Completed shortly after Arledge's release from Napa State Hospital, where she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had undergone numerous electroshock treatments, WHAT IS A MAN? offers a fascinating glimpse into the filmmaker's psyche.

A prolific painter, Arledge also pioneered the medium of hand painting on glass slide transparencies. These largely abstract works, begun in 1947, involved the making of "glass sandwiches," between which she squeezed colored gelatinous sheets which were heated in ovens. The melted gels were then drawn on with toothpicks, Q-tips, crumpled napkins and toilet paper, Sharpie pens and so on. Finding great satisfaction with this process, Arledge would eventually make a number of what she called "stable" films (see TENDER IMAGES and INTERIOR GARDEN), in which she transferred the glass transparencies to 16mm film.

[Source: Video Art World, April 13, 2011]