“Here’s a film that I made out of a deep grief. The grief is my business, in a way, but the grief was helpful in squeezing the little film out of me, that I said, ‘These crazy moths are flying into the candlelight, and burning themselves to death! And that’s what’s happening to me! I don’t have enough money to make these films, and it’s destroying… I’m not feeding my children properly because of these damn films,’ you know, and I’m burning up here … I’m feeling the full horror of some kind of immolation, in a way … So I say ‘Well, I’m going to comprehend this; I’ve got to understand it.’ So I go out with a camera and I start following moths around, well, that was hopeless, I’m not agile enough to follow a moth, even with a camera [laughs] and get anything of any real meaning. And suddenly I realize that… over the light bulbs, there’s all these dead moth wings. And I hate—y’know, hate that. Such a sadness. There must surely be something to do with that, and I tenderly pick them out and I start pasting them onto a strip of film to try to… in one way, you’d say it’s a kind of madness, to give them life again? To animate them again? To put them into some kind of life through the motion picture machine [laughs]? But really, it’s, I think, deeper than that … It’s to engage with this, that otherwise is just an unacceptable… unhappiness, or misery. To engage with it in some way that makes of it something.”
Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963)
Film stills courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper.
In the art museums of Russia, women sit in the galleries and guard the collections. When you look at the paintings and sculptures, the presence of the women becomes an inherent part of viewing the artwork itself. I found the guards as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over. In conversation they told me how much they like being among Russia’s great art. A woman in Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. Another guard travels three hours each day to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, “as old women do.” She would rather be at the museum enjoying the people watching, surrounded by the history of her country.
1. Stroganov Palace, Russian State Museum
2.Matisse Still Life, Hermitage Museum
3.Konchalovsky’s Family Portrait, State Tretyakov Gallery
4. Veronese’s Adoration of the Shepherds, Hermitage Museum
5. Rublev and Daniil’s The Deesis Tier, State Tretyakov Gallery
6. Michelangelo’s Moses and the Dying Slave, Pushkin Museum
7.Malevich’s Self Portrait, Russian State Museum
8. Nesterov’s Blessed St Sergius of Radonezh, Russian State Museum
9. Petrov-Vodkin’s Bathing of a Red Horse, State Tretyakov Gallery
10. Kugach’s Before the Dance, State Tretyakov Gallery