Back when David Lynch’s Eraserhead screened only on the midnight movie circuit it was often preceded by Asparagus (1978), a 20-minute experimental animation by painter-turned-filmmaker Suzan Pitt. Painstakingly assembled over a four-year period, Asparagus, like much of Pitt’s work, combines hand-drawn animation, claymation, and even some live-action elements. The tone is dreamlike and playful, though the imagery hints at darker, psychosexual themes. One might call it the missing link between Lynch’s early, experimental work and the animated shorts they used to show on Sesame Street.
On Monday at 7 PM Chicago Filmmakers will present a program of Pitt’s work at Gallery 400 on the UIC campus. The program runs about 90 minutes and provides an overview of her career. The selections include Crocus (1971), her first film to garner national attention; Asparagus; and El Doctor (2006), her most recent short. Based on the pieces I previewed, I’d say the program should be a trippy good time. Pitt’s work is highly colorful, detailed, and esoteric in the best sense, suggesting a direct link from the screen to the artist’s subconscious. Below you’ll find Jefferson Circus Songs, a 1973 animated/live-action hybrid featuring young students from Minneapolis Public Schools (a cosponsor of the film). (By the way, does anyone know if Chicago Public Schools ever helped produce an experimental film? Because I just imagined Arne Duncan made up and jumping around like the guy in Kenneth Anger’s Rabbit’s Moon, and I kind of wish this were a reality.)