Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New documentary film celebrates American art through the faces of her people

Connecticut-based independent filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton of 217 Films announce a new film project -- their seventh in ten years and their sixth “essay in film” -- tracing the history of America through the portraits of the American people.

The film is titled “American Faces: Portrait of a Nation” and is scheduled for release in November 2016.

Abbott H. Thayer, Margaret McKittrick, c. 1903.
Oil on canvas. Indianapolis Museum of Art,
Gift of the Friends of American Art.
    
From the beginning of our history as revolutionaries through more than two centuries of triumph and tragedy, “American Faces” reveals how American artists have portrayed their fellow citizens, as well as themselves, in paint, on film, and through the tangible reality of sculpture. The portrait is the most intimate form of art expression, and “American Faces” -- using more than 100 works of American painting and sculpture, as well as photographs and the moving image -- will focus on how Americans have viewed themselves, viewed their country, and understood themselves as both individual citizens and as a part of the greater events of their times.

Caesar: A Slave, ca. 1850. Daguerreotype.
New York Historical Society.
    
Writer and director Michael Maglaras has written, “The richness of our American artistic experience is best understood through the faces of our people, whether it is through the iconography of Gilbert Stuart’s multiple portraits of George Washington, or through Chuck Close’s keen understanding of the composite nature of each of our personalities. The faces of our fellow citizens stare back at us with steadfast resolve and embody a special essence that is uniquely American.” Maglaras continues, “As we have gone through political, social, and financial upheaval and change, what fascinates me as a filmmaker is that a steady point of visual reference in American art is how we portray ourselves, see ourselves, and arrive, through the portrait art of each generation, at a common understanding of what it means to be an American.”

John Singer Sargent,
Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes, 1897.
Oil on canvas. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Image source: Art Resource, NY.
    
More About 217 Films:  217 Films is an independent film company devoted to the American artistic experience.  In 2005, Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton released their first film “Cleophas and His Own” about the American painter Marsden Hartley's epic narrative of love and loss. Maglaras both directed and played the role of Hartley in this film.  In 2008, they released a second film about Hartley called “Visible Silence:  Marsden Hartley, Painter and Poet” – the first-ever documentary on the life of Hartley. In 2010, with their film “John Marin: Let the Paint be Paint!” they established, through the first full-length documentary on this important painter, that John Marin was one of the fathers of American Modernism. These films, among other distinctions, have been shown to acclaim at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In 2012, they released “O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward.” In 2013, they released “The Great Confusion: The 1913 Armory Show.” Currently on tour is their latest film “Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA” celebrating the ways in which Franklin Roosevelt used the arts to raise the spirits of the American people during the Great Depression.


Chuck Close, Self-Portrait, 1997. Oil on canvas.
© Chuck Close, Courtesy Pace Gallery.    
The Sacramento Bee called Michael Maglaras a filmmaker of “Bergman-like gravitas.” His films have been described as “virtuoso filmmaking” (National Gallery of Art) “alive and fresh” (Art New England) and “elegiac and insightful” (Naples Daily News).  David Berona, author of “Wordless Books” has said of “O Brother Man” ... “This film is stunning.” A recent review in The Dartmouth said of “The Great Confusion” that “Michael Maglaras... brought the drama of the original show back to life.”