ARTSY: There Goes The Eraserhood

David Lynch and Jack Fisk in Philadelphia 1967 by C.K. WILLIAMS

NEW YORK TIMES: Mr. Fisk persuaded his friend to join him at Pennsylvania Academy in January 1966. “At the academy, everybody I met was a serious painter,” Mr. Lynch said. “I was just starting to find something of my own. It was really inspiring.” He lived with Mr. Fisk north of the academy in a desolate, industrial area, where he would watch bodies being carried into the city morgue from a window. “I met the night watchman from the morgue at Pop’s Diner, who invited me over,” Mr. Lynch recalled. “He said, ‘Ring the doorbell at midnight, and I’ll let you in.’ ” Always interested in what he calls “organic phenomena”— stemming from his father’s work with insects and tree diseases — Mr. Lynch was influenced visually by the decay in the urban landscape and objects being taken over by nature.

In 1967, late one night in his studio at the academy, he said, he saw plants start to stir in his painting and heard the sound of a wind from his canvas. “Oh, a moving painting,” he remembers saying out loud. He and Bruce Samuelson, another student, exchanged ideas for animations, and Mr. Lynch bought himself the cheapest camera he could find. “David knew nothing about filmmaking or cameras or projectors,” said Mr. Samuelson, a professor at the academy since 1973. “He’s totally self-taught.” Mr. Lynch’s drive to make a “moving painting” resulted in “Six Men Getting Sick,” a multimedia installation for which he shared first prize in the school’s experimental painting competition that spring. He cast a large-scale screen from resin, with three impressions of his own head protruding. On this sculpted surface, he projected a one-minute, hand-painted loop animating six heads in various stages of distress. As a siren wails and their faces distort, their stomachs fill with fluid that rushes to their mouths and erupts. “It was a painting, it was an animation, it was a kinetic sculpture,” said Mr. Samuelson, who saw it unveiled. “Everybody went nuts.” Mr. Cozzolino is restaging the installation in the exhibition for the first time since 1967.

“He was trying to work on what is the most intense feeling you can have, of his body repelling,” said Rodger LaPelle, a 1961 graduate of the academy who came to the competition. He hired Mr. Lynch — broke, just married to a fellow student, Peggy Lentz, and expecting a baby — to work for him and his wife, Christine McGinnis, another academy alum, in their printing business. The older couple became crucial benefactors over the next three years, employing Mr. Lynch as an engraver and giving him space on the weekends to make paintings, which they bought for $25 apiece. The exhibition includes more than a half-dozen of these canvases, weird hybrids of humans, animals and plants that were informed by the primal emotion of Francis Bacon’s paintings, which Mr. Lynch saw in New York in 1968. In September, Rodger LaPelle Galleries in Philadelphia will exhibit several early paintings and more recent photogravures with nude figures by Mr. Lynch.

The Pennsylvania Academy show also displays his continuing experiments in film, combining animation and live action: “The Alphabet” (1968) and “The Grandmother” (1970), which starred Ms. McGinnis’s mother as a doting nana birthed from a pod planted by a love-starved boy. The film won Mr. Lynch a fellowship at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, where he moved with his family in 1970. For much of the next decade, he was consumed with realizing “Eraserhead,” his first feature-length film, which Mr. Lynch said “was born out of Philadelphia.” It is set in an industrial world where a young father slips between hallucinatory episodes as he is left to fend for a needy creature that looks like a cross of a human baby, a reptilian alien and a gourd. MORE

WIKIPEDIA: Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) (often known as Six Figures Getting Sick) is a 1967 experimental animated short film, directed by David Lynch. A student project that was developed over the course of a semester, it is Lynch’s first film and was shot while he was attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The film consists of an animated painting, depicting six dysmorphic figures regurgitating in sequence with the sound of a siren loop. Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) consists of a one-minute animation of a painting by David Lynch looped four times and accompanied by a soundtrack of a siren wailing. The title, which according to the liner notes of The Short Films of David Lynch “expresses what little plot there is”,[1] relates to the painting’s animation as it depicts “six abstracted figures appearing in outline. Their internal organs become visible, and their stomachs fill with a brightly coloured substance, which travels up to their heads, causing them to vomit.”[2] The film contains no plot but has been described by film critics as “a helpful paradigm for Lynch’s narrative sense”, which “presents us with a humorous example of our own myopia on the subject.” The narrative concept of Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) has drawn comparisons to that of Lynch’s debut feature film, 1977’s Eraserhead.[3] MORE