This profile of David Lynch examines another side to the film luminary with a look at how he began his artistic career as a painter. David Lynch shares his origins as a painter and how art informs his career in cinema. In his first major museum exhibition in the United States, David Lynch merges painting, sculpture, sound and moving images.
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In 1967 as an advanced painting student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, David Lynch made a hybrid work of art that brought together painting, sculpture, sound, film, and installation. Six Men Getting Sick (1967) expanded Lynch’s practice and opened him up to the possibilities of filmmaking. He went on to become internationally renowned as a film director but never stopped working as a visual artist. Lynch has maintained a devoted studio practice, developing a parallel body of painting, prints, photography, and drawing that deserves to be better known. In many ways his identity as an American artist brings together all aspects of his creative life into a unified field of subjects and concerns.
David Lynch: The Unified Field was Lynch’s first major museum exhibition in the United States, organized in close collaboration with the artist. It brought together approximately 90 paintings and drawings from 1965 to present. Part of the exhibition explored Lynch’s early work, much of which has never been displayed in public. Six Men Getting Sick was restaged for the first time and presented with related drawings. Several early short films, made in Philadelphia, were also on display.
Recurrent themes in the exhibition included the human body combined with “organic phenomena” in unlikely combinations and the home depicted as a site for childhood memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or passion. Lynch’s ability to suggest the emotional intensity of his subject matter through paint textures, surface effects, and physical traces of his hand, brings intimacy and empathy to even the most disturbing narratives. Many works included presented a tense, mysterious scenario suspended in the course of a story. We witness psychologically-charged moments isolated out of context.