Painter, fisherman, visionary, eccentric—Forrest Bess lived his life in obscurity, at an isolated bait camp off the East Coast of Texas. From 1949 through 1967, Bess showed at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City, (along with artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko). But Bess's art was only part of a grander theory, based on
alchemy, Jungian philosophy, and aboriginal rituals, which proposed that hermaphrodism was the key to immortality. Narrated by actors Willem Dafoe and Ruth Maleczech, the documentary combines the beauty of Bess's art with the drama and tragedy of his personal life. Interviews with people who knew Bess, including art historian Meyer Schapiro (his last interview) and Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman brings life to this forgotten artist. Forrest Bess: Key to the Riddle is a fascinating look at one of America's most unusual artists.
-From Checkerboard Films
A discussion with director Chuck Smith and poet John Yau will follow the screening.
Chuck Smith is a freelance producer, writer, and filmmaker who has produced documentaries for many network and cable stations. Most recently he has been working as a Series Producer at Northsouth Productions for "Fight Quest" (2008, Discovery Channel). Other credits include, "Worlds Apart" (2004, The National Geographic Channel), "Unleashed" (2004, The National Geographic Channel), and "The Geography of Wealth" (2003, The National Geographic Channel). Smith has also worked as a Series or Supervising Producer on "Unwrapping Macy's" (2006, WE Network), "Doctors Without Borders: Life in the Field" (2003, The National Geographic Channel) and "Women Docs" (2001, Lifetime). Prior to his work in cable television, Mr. Smith was a producer for CBS News on various programs including "Coast to Coast" (1997), "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" (1995), "Sunday Morning" (1994), and "Street Stories with Ed Bradley" (1991-93). He has also produced stories for Michael Moore's "TV Nation" (Fox, 1995) and the NHK Evening News (Japan). With his own company, Chuck Smith Productions, Mr. Smith has written, produced and directed "Forrest Bess: Key to the Riddle" (1998, Certificate of Merit, San Francisco International Film Festival), "Kuwayama Projects 1996" (Chiba City Museum, Chiba, Japan), and "A Night at the Poets' Cafe" (1991, WNYC). He began his career working for Public Affairs Television and David Grubin Productions on such award-winning PBS series as "The American Experience," "Smithsonian World," "The Power of the Word with Bill Moyers," and "Bill Moyers' World of Ideas". In addition to his work in production, Mr. Smith teaches an "Introduction to Film" class at the Rudolf Steiner High School in New York City.
Pok Man John Yau is an American poet and critic who has published over 50 books of poetry, artists' books, fiction, and art criticism. His most recent book is The Passionate Spectator: Essays on Art and Poetry. His collections of poetry include Paradiso Diaspora, Ing Grish (with Paintings by Thomas Nozkowski), Borrowed Love Poems, Forbidden Entries, Berlin Diptychon (with Photographs by Bill Barrette), Edificio Sayonara, Corpse and Mirror (a National Poetry Series book selected by John Ashbery), and Broken Off by The Music. Artists' books include projects with Hanns Schimannsky, Archie Rand, Norman Bluhm, Pat Steir, Suzanne McClelland, Robert Therrien, Leiko Ikemura, and Jörgen Partenheimer. His books of art criticism include The United States of Jasper Johns and In the Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol. He also edited Fetish, a fiction anthology. Yau's honors include the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Jerome Shestack Prize from the American Poetry Review, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the General Electric Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He is the Arts editor of The Brooklyn Rail and currently teaches art criticism at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.
Shown by permission of Chuck Smith and Checkerboard Films. Running time: 48 minutes.