Chick Strand's (1931-2009) accomplishments as an artist spanned more than three decades. In the early 1960s, with a new anthropology degree in hand, she turned her attention to ethnographic filmmaking. Her early work focused on Meso-American cultures explored through the language of the experimental documentary.
In 1961, she founded Canyon Cinema with Bruce Baillie, an organization that, in 1965, spawned the San Francisco Cinematheque. They organized screenings of experimental, documentary and narrative films in East Bay backyards and community centers. Acting in response to a lack of public venues for independent movies, they were part of a wider explosion in American avant-garde film. The era was one of social idealism and communal energy, and the films they showcased boldly embraced purely cinematic visual expression and cultural critique.
Strand left Northern California in the late 1960s to pursue studies in ethnographic film at UCLA. She then joined the faculty of Occidental College, where she served as the director of the film as art program for a quarter of a century. In the 1970s she continued to define her visual technique, and her subjects more frequently became women. She soon evolved a distinctive film style: backlit subjects photographed in close up and in motion, with a handheld telephoto lens. The technique produced sensual, lyrical images that became Strand's signature. Her entire filmography numbers nearly a score of works, and along the way, she also become an accomplished photographer and painter.
A note from Chick, penned in the late 1990s:
Still making films after all of these years, (35). Four more are being edited now and should be finished in a couple of years.
I hope that my work stands alone without an introduction. If you want to know more about me and my work, write to me in care of Canyon and I'll answer any questions you might have. Otherwise I have nothing of importance to say.
Meanwhile, I've put a picture of myself in the catalogue for the first time. Take a peek at this mug and understand you are looking into the eyes of a person who believes that after day comes night and after that, day comes again.
Love to all,