Marie Menken (born Marie Menkevicius, May 25, 1909 – December 29, 1970) was an American experimental filmmaker, painter, and socialite. She was noted for her unique filming style that incorporated collage.
There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try—but how expensive! Menken and her husband Willard Maas began a well-respected avant-garde art group known as The Gryphon Group in the mid-1940s. It was around this time that Menken, bored by the static nature of paint on canvas, began to experiment with film. She released her first film, Visual Variations on Noguchi, in 1945 to acclaim within experimental art circles of the time. She used a hand-held and hand-cranked 16mm Bolex camera for this as well as many of her later films, contributing to the spontaneity and agility of her work. Noguchi is a non-narrative film that combines quick, decontextualized shots of the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi with shrill, discordant music.Menken and the Gryphon Group began to produce numerous short experimental films around the time of Noguchi's release. She also began to experiment with various types of animation techniques, including collage and stop-motion cinematography, owing to her background in painting.Her 1962 film Notebook was shot between 1940 and 1962, and is arguably her best-known film. It consists of short snippets of film she shot over the years spliced together in a meditative fashion. Menken continued to make films that both were influenced by and commented on the various art movements her contemporaries took part in, including abstract expressionism in Drips in Strips (1963) and pop art in Andy Warhol (1964).
In 1931 she met Willard Maas, a professor of literature at Wagner College in Staten Island. They married in 1937, but it was a rocky and unstable marriage, described as a "succession of fights and drinking bouts". Menken and Maas lived at 62 Montague Street in Brooklyn. As core members of the Gryphon Group, Menken and Maas were highly respected by the experimental and avant-garde art circles of the time. Menken was known for her association with and influence on many of the leading members of the movement, including pop artist Andy Warhol, painter and experimental filmmakers Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage.According to the 2006 film documentary Notes on Marie Menken produced by Martina Kudláček, it was Marie who schooled Warhol on using the 16mm Bolex. The film presents never-before-seen footage by Menken salvaged from basements and storage vaults, including a camera "duel" for Bolexes between Menken and Andy Warhol; the two are seen dueling on top of a New York City building, facing each other with Bolex Cameras and dancing in circles around each other while gliding across the roof-top of Menken's penthouse apartment. Menken later appeared in such Warhol films as Screen Tests (1964), The Life of Juanita Castro (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966), among others.
Menken was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 25, 1909, to a Roman Catholic immigrant couple from Lithuania. She studied at the New York School of Fine and Industrial Arts as well as the Art Students League of New York and honed her craft as a painter. To support herself, she worked as a secretary at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum before receiving a scholarship from Yaddo and moving to upstate New York.
Movies & TV shows
In Search of the Miraculous
In the Search of the Miraculous is a multi-levelled story realized with extremely personal techniques and with the kind of atmosphere of Poetry and Introspection, only a poet could create. It is, in f...
An expansion upon an idea put forward in Marie Menken's film Notebook; single-frame footage of the moon shot on various nights, blinking and darting around within Menken's field of vision.
Watts with Eggs
"By 1967, Menken had become interested in the work of Fluxus artist Robert Watts and made a short animation piece, Watts with EGGS, in which she animates his chrome-casted Box of Eggs. The film opens ...
Shot over a period of three years. Marie Menken photographed New York window displays during the Christmas holiday. In order to avoid foot and street traffic interrupting the shots, Menken filmed from...
Photography: Willard Maas and John Hawkins. "Looking down instead of around, while walking, finding the magic patterns in the pavements of a city."--John Hawkins
Lacking a formal narrative, Warhol's mammoth film follows various residents of the Chelsea Hotel in 1966 New York City. The film was intended to be screened via dual projector set-up.
Inspired by Bibbe Hansen's experiences in a juvenile detention center.
Andy Warhol Screen Tests
The films were made between 1964 and 1966 at Warhol's Factory studio in New York City. Subjects were captured in stark relief by a strong key light, and filmed by Warhol with his stationary 16mm Bolex...
A film of a painting of a sound. Piet Mondrian's 'Broadway Boogie-Woogie' is translated into visual boogie rhythm.
The Life of Juanita Castro
A playwright taunts a number of actors into improvising a truly ridiculous but subtlely meaningful meditation on Fidel Castro and his family.
Andy Warhol is a lyrical exploration of Warhol's creative process by filmmaker, painter, and actress Marie Menken. Using a hand-held camera, Menken captures Warhol and his assistants, including Gerard...
Bagatelle for Willard Maas
"This is a new version of the now famous film made for her husband, the poet and film-maker. Returning from the Brussels fair, she shot this at Versailles and the Louvre. There is wit, irony and proph...
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger
Filmed at the Alhambra in Spain in just one day, according to Marie Menken. Arabesque for Kenneth Anger concentrates on visual details found in Moorish architecture and in ancient Spanish tile. The da...
A short film which combines a series of unrelated images together, much like a notebook.
Drips in Strips
"Spattered paint responding to gravity, forming its own patterns and combinations of color." -- M.M.
Menken's 16mm, stop-motion tribute to the art of Dwight Ripley was filmed in 1959 in his apartment on East Fifty-eighth Street in New York. The contemporary soundtrack for steel drum, guitar, flute, a...
Image in the Snow
A young male protagonist dreams of a muscleman hero, a black dancer, and a princess who gives him a magic urn. When he wakes he rejects his mother (Menken) and wanders the cold streets, where he finds...
Visual Variations on Noguchi
A voice occasionally says a word or two: "on the sidewalk" or "lithium" or a woman's name. A hand-held camera frames parts of sculptures, or moves across their surfaces, sometimes slowly, sometimes qu...
The Geography of the Body
A quotation from Aristophanes, "The desire and pursuit of the whole is called love," precedes views of a man and a woman's bodies, often in extreme close up. Off-screen, a voice recites fragments of o...
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