In an interview conducted with filmmaker magazine, multimedia artist Neelon Crawford ‘69 reflects on his beginnings in film, what inspired him to begin creating experimental cinema, and his thoughts on finding and crafting narrative through experimental film.
Crawford explains that he began making photographs at a young age, taught by his father, renowned American abstract lithographer, and photographer Ralston Crawford.
“At Antioch College, I ended up in the art department. I was drawn to stained glass windows, which I had seen on trips to Europe with my family. Not traditional religious imagery, but contemporary designs. I liked the idea of moving light, which caused the images to change. At Antioch there was quite a bit of interest in experimental or avant-garde cinema, the idea of nonlinear, visual movies that were like paintings,” says Crawford.
“I would point to Bruce Baillie’s Castro Street in particular. I thought, here’s how I can marry what I was doing with stained glass and the movement of light with what I was already very familiar with in still photography. The art department didn’t offer filmmaking, so we got some cameras and film and editing equipment, and we ran with it. In sculpture class I built an eight foot cube that I lined with mirrors, and started shooting photographs with it. The first film I shot, Freakquently, was in that mirrored cube.”
Since graduating from Antioch College in 1969, Crawford has produced a series of diverse work. From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, Crawford experimented with light and movement, producing 35 films – including a landscape series short in Peru and Ecuador between 1973 and 1976.
After a busy period of exhibiting his works, Crawford withdrew his films from circulation in the mid 1980s, turning away from film to focus on photography and painting in the footsteps of his father, abstract artist Ralston Crawford (1906 – 1978).
An exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Neelon Crawford, Filmmaker is showing through spring 2022. The gallery show consists of eight restored films installed as a meditation on climate crisis and sustainability, inspired by the classical elements of nature: earth, water, air, and fire.