Overlooked No More: Chick Strand, Pioneering Experimental Filmmaker


In 1961, she founded The Canyon Cinemanews, a journal for local filmmakers that Stanford University called “the main organ of the independent filmmaking community” when it purchased the journal’s archives in 2010. The journal offered what it described as “a cornucopia of announcements, letters, classifieds, how-to information, call-outs and more” for local filmmakers who lacked access to Hollywood.

In 1966, the same year she began studying ethnography at the University of California, Los Angeles (and the same year her son, Eric, was born), Strand presented a three-minute short, “Angel Blue Sweet Wings,” at the New York Film Festival. The film captured the luminous, psychedelically colored landscape of Strand’s second home, in Mexico, through a roaming, almost dancing camera, with the faces of her friends collaged seamlessly over fuzzy bodies, plants and mountains. It was described as “an experimental film poem in celebration of life and visions” by the Film-Makers’ Cooperative.

In 1967, Strand helped start the Canyon Cinema collective with Baillie and the filmmakers Lawrence C. Jordan, Robert Nelson, Lenny Lipton and Ben Van Meter. The organization — part pop-up cinematheque, part artists’ cooperative — distributed experimental films by now-famous directors like Hammer, Clarke and Peggy Ahwesh. Canyon Cinema later became a full-time nonprofit, with many of its members’ works incorporated into the National Film Registry.

By then Strand and her second husband, Neon Park, the artist known for his imaginative album covers, were splitting their time between California and Mexico. In Mexico, she began to explore assemblage and ethnography more formally in her art, resulting in several works now considered landmarks of West Coast cinema, including “Fake Fruit Factory,” about women who work in a factory making wooden fruit.


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