Mid October, 2006: Fascinated. There I was, in a room with 40 or more boxes of paperwork and possessions that only Stan Brakhage himself knew the whole contents of. I was so excited.

I had heard many stories, some realistic and some bordering on the surreal, about this man of many sides who devoted his life to experimental film. I had never met Stan. But I loved the avant grade and all its beautiful nuances, especially when it came to the subject of abstract light. I picked up a small clear crystal ball from the first box I was allowed to look into. What film did he use this in? I was so curious. I wanted to know everything about the man who made my own hypnagogic visions come to life. I was driven. So, I began a quest for my own personal satisfaction, and interviewed as many friends of his that I and my pocketbook could find.

Early February, 2010: Thanks to the efforts from Brad Arnold of the Norlin Archives at CU Boulder, I was able to access all I could about each individual from the Stan Brakhage Collection before an interview. Every person I spoke with would refer me to a new friend of Stan’s. Thinking back, I felt this allowed a memory jog between friends, for many connections had not seen one another for some time. A magic thing happened as I listened to all of the life moments that painted Stan in my head. Someone would say something verbatim that another would. Even the cadence was the same. How amazing that Stan Brakhage could mold such an image into the people who knew him, even years after his passing, that the memory would remain the same for all!

Late March, 2014: There are many variances here of character both in the remembrances of Mr. Stan Brakhage and the friends that knew him. People from all times in his life are represented here. I found many more connections, a seemingly limitless array of friends in the life of Stan. Every recollection of this experimental giant of a man is from a unique perspective, yet one thing still remained constant. Every person I had the privilege of speaking with is some kind of artist.

  • GORDON ROSENBLUM- gallery owner, founder of the “Gadflies”, owner of the ashtray from “Text of Light”, friend of Stan’s since high school
  • JANE WODENING/JANE BRAKHAGE- actor, filmmaker, farmer, author, poet, mountain woman, tarot card reader, first wife of Stan, friend
  • JACK COLLOM- brother in law to Stan, brother of Jane Wodening, poet, friend
  • JENNIFER HEATH- writer, wife of Jack Collom, friend
  • BOBBIE LOUISE HAWKINS- artist, wife of Robert Creeley, friend
  • JENNIFER DUNBAR DORN- writer, wife of Ed Dorn, friend
  • REED BYE- poet, first husband of Anne Waldman, friend
  • LESTER RAETZ- optical printer of Western CinemaLab, printed “Mothlight” and most of Stan’s films, friend
  • ROBERT DAVID- film preservationist, second owner of Western CinemaLab, friend
  • DAN CLARK- lead lab printer, second owner of Western CinemaLab, friend
  • MARY BETH REED- filmmaker, former student, teacher, collaborator for “Garden Path” and others, friend
  • PHIL ROWE (deceased)- filmmaker, lecturer for avant grade film theory classes at CU Boulder, friend
  • JOEL HAERTLING- actor in “Faust”, musician, film programmer at the Boulder Public Library, friend
  • ERIC WALDEMAR- filmmaker, former student, friend
  • CARL FUERMANN- filmmaker, former student, friend
  • COURTNEY HOSKINS- filmmaker, former projectionist, friend
  • TOM PETERS- owner of the Beat Book Shop in Boulder, CO, poet, friend
  • DON YANNACITO- 8mm professor at CU Boulder, counselor, filmmaker, friend

With help, I hope to publish these interviews in book form, along with an accompanying DVD of short films capturing each person’s own visual memory. Mr. Gordon Rosenblum’s vignettes are here as an introduction. For now, these interviews are selectively accessible through the Ashley Swendsen Collection at the CU Boulder Norlin Archives.

Ashley Swendsen is a musician, film preservationist, filmmaker, waitress, historian and friend of avant garde film. Strangely, she once appeared on The Today Show. Ashley lives with her husband, young daughter and many posters, records and instruments at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Return to Issue 3 Table of Contents

The Memories of Stan Brakhage: a collection of recollections from friends — Ashley Swendsen