Painting, and featured historical interviews with the greats of past generations: Newman, De Kooning, Motherwell, Noland, Stella, Olitski, Poons, Rauschenberg, Johns and Warhol. De Antonio was making a film as an outsider—and it shows—however, the documentary’s unique insight into the featured artists’ work and lives caused it to become a film that just about anyone in the art world has seen at least once. I’ve personally watched it over 100 times.
“I felt no one was in any hurry to do a documentary film like this, so it was up to me to be the one that put it together.”
Painter, Karen Wilkin.
As a painter for over 13 years, I have spent much time learning the various aspects of painting. Though my learning didn’t come from a school instructor, it came through watching the greatest art documentary ever made.
Emile De Antonio wanted to make a film about the friends he had in the art world. He called it Painters Painting, and featured historical interviews with the greats of past generations: Newman, De Kooning, Motherwell, Noland, Stella, Olitski, Poons, Rauschenberg, Johns and Warhol. De Antonio was making a film as an outsider—and it shows—however, the documentary’s unique insight into the featured artists’ work and lives caused it to become a film that just about anyone in the art world has seen at least once. I’ve personally watched it over 100 times. Nearly every instance in which I put on Painters Painting, I’ve had the inkling to make a film like this, instead featuring artists from the contemporary moment. That thought stayed with me until about a year ago when I finally sat down and began getting in touch with various people in the art world. I felt no one was in any hurry to do a documentary film like this, so it was up to me to be the one that put it together.
I began with a person whom I already knew: Joseph Marioni, a painter perpetuating the High Modernist tradition of his predecessors. Once I talked with him, I came away with many ideas that multiplied. Though De Antonio was already well acquainted with his group of participants, I would be learning about mine for the first time while filming, which is an experience I have come to enjoy. There’s nothing like sitting with someone and hearing the story of his or her life firsthand. I felt lucky to hear Karen Wilkin’s stories about Caro and Olitski, to go through a Matisse show at the Modern with Ken Noland, and to hear a painter speak about paintings without the museum’s usual curatorial categorization. I went to Peter Reginato’s and heard him talk about meeting John Chamberlain for the first time—and similarly learned of his desire for Barnett Newman to come see his work. John Zinsser talked to me about the first time he visited Marioni’s home, and how the environment was so different from his paintings and personality. Stories like these don’t appear in many art books—even less so in art documentaries.
It is difficult for a Columbus, Ohio-based painter like myself to work on a documentary filmed in New York, as I have to arrange initial meetings through phone, email, or Facebook. I have already travelled as far a New Hampshire to visit curator Carl Belz, to hear his stories of how he began as an athlete and wound up becoming one of the most beloved curators of art in the country. It was quite an amazing interview, and what a trip.
Once I had five 80-minute interviews completed, I had everything ready to start a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter, a crowd sourcing platform that funds intellectual projects, offers benefits such as DVDs, photo prints, and autographed prints in exchange for donations. It is an all-or-nothing way of raising funds, so if I don’t hit my needed mark, the money never leaves the donors bank. If I obtain my necessary funding, I will be able to travel to the New York area and carry out 15 or more remaining interviews. I hope that with help, I will be able to create a valuable art historical document.
Stories like these deserve to be heard by many. I don’t know what my life would be like had it not been for that day in the Columbus Metropolitan Library, when I found a copy of De Antonio’s legendary documentary. Hearing words straight from the artists, untainted by anyone else, gave me a feeling that I knew a bit more about them. I hope I can pass on this unique knowledge to future generations. One of the main reasons I wish to finish this film is because I also want to make two other films like it, with participants from the western section of America, and with participants from Europe. Quite an undertaking I know, but I firmly believe in myself and know that I can do it.
I urge you to take some time and view the campaign for yourself at…