Edward Owens was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1949. He began practicing art in 1961 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Initially focused on painting and drawings, Owens created his first work on 8mm film in 1965. He was awarded a scholarship to study w/ experimentalist filmmaker, Gregory Markopoulos, at the University of Chicago. Realizing Owens's natural talent, Markopoulos encouraged Owens to leave school and move to New York. In New York, Owens met Charles Boultenhouse, a brief lover and supporter of his work..Despite suffering from depression, Owens managed to complete four works on film that have remained masterpieces today. His career was tragically cut short by personal issues that nearly cost him his life, and after returning to Chicago, his visionary work went largely overlooked.
Using baroque lighting techniques, he delicately captures an evening of laughs between his mother, Mildred Owens, and her friend, Nettie Thomas, coupling their relaxed state with pop music in Remembrance: a Portrait Study; peers into the vacantness of love in Tomorrow’s Promise; blurs fantasy and reality in Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts; and displays grim determination in his first film, Autre fois J'ai Aime Une Femme (Once I loved a Woman).
-- Melissa Lyde
PRIVATE IMAGININGS AND NARRATIVE FACTS (Ed Owens, 1966, 6 min.)
A montage of still and moving images, mixing and alternating black people and white people, fantasy and reality, a presidential suite and a mother’s kitchen: a sensitive, poetic evocation in the manner of the filmmaker’s Remembrance. Brilliantly colored and nostalgic, it comprises a magical transformation of painterly collage and still photographic sensibility into filmic time and space.” --Charles Boultenhouse
REMEMBRANCE A PORTRAIT STUDY (Ed Owens, 1967, 6 min.)
“The music is by Marilyn Monroe singing Running Wild from Some Like It Hot, because it’s a film portrait of Nettie Thomas. She did floors in white women’s homes, like black women did to support their families in the olden days. My mother is sitting in a wicker chair with an ostrich feather boa, a grey worsted wool skirt, a silk belt. For her portrait, I used All Cried Out by Dusty Springfield... I was advised by Gregory Markopoulos not to play the music. Because Gregory didn’t think it was proper.” --Ed Owens
TOMORROW'S PROMISE (Ed Owens, 1967, 44 min.)
“Edward Owens has achieved in Tomorrow’s Promise a quality so exceedingly high that one is forced to term certain moments of the film bad only because they are surrounded by such rich nuance. Tomorrow’s Promise deals with complex, intellectually exciting subject matter yet remains unobscure. The nudity of the film is handled in a fresh and climactic way. Tomorrow’s Promise contains almost separate films and Mr. Owens has successfully assembled them toward one goal: vacantness. Mr. Owens appears to be a classicist adhering to his own valid principles of excellence in the arts … there will be no limit to the amount of beauty and excoriation he may choose to show us.” --Gregory Battcock
AUTRE FOIS J'AI UNE FEMME (Ed Owens, 1966, 22 min.)
"(Edward Owens) may well be one of the few for whom 'amateur' and 'professional' need have no significance whatsoever: true to his own native talents, with grim determination uncanny, whether the mind in the arts is for or against beauty or its opposite twin, chaos.” --Gregory Markopoulos
Post-screening discussion with Melissa Lyde and Ed Halter
Melissa Lyde is the founder of Alfreda's Cinema, a bi-monthly series at Metrograph with independent screenings in and around New York. Alfreda’s Cinema screens films that tell Black/POC stories that resonate with depth and love, the richness and culture of our history, our dynamics, our shapes, our colors, and our truth.
Ed Halter, one of the founders and directors of Light Industry in Brooklyn, teaches in the Department of Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and has recently organized film programs for Artists Space in SoHo and for MoMA PS1’s quinquennial survey “Greater New York,” which remains on view through October 18. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Afterall, The Believer, Rhizome, and the Village Voice, and he is currently working on a critical history of contemporary experimental cinema, supported by a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.