In Maya’s Mirror
MoMA Honors the Vital Reverie of Maya Deren
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From Carolee Schneemann to David Lynch, the influence of Maya Deren is indispensable to American Cinema. As an impassioned force against Hollywood and the big-money business of movie making that came of age during her time (1917-1961), any New York filmmaker who has ever shown their work at independent ad hoc theaters set up in galleries, living rooms or rooftops around the city, owes something to the ideals of Deren. Her images have indelibly marked many filmmakers styles: ethereal visions of a soulful woman’s psyche reflecting in mirrors and water, manifesting memorable symbols with magic, while dancers move as if they are in water to fluxus-like soundtracks filled with bells, wind and silence.
Since last spring, the Museum of Modern Art has been honoring Maya Deren by showing a series of her films along with the work of filmmakers she has inspired, including Schneemann. MoMA is summarizing this exhibition with the showing of the 2002 documentary film In the Mirror of Maya Deren. This feature length film by Martina Kudlácek traces the work of Deren from her humble beginnings spent booking the Village’s Provincetown Playhouse for a public exhibition of her early films, through her Guggenheim fellowship and subsequent work on Haitian Voudoun, until her death in 1961. Compiled from clips of Deren’s films, interviews with collaborators, Kudlack’s own visual experimentation and music by composer John Zorn, the documentary moves in a gentle dreamlike way, befitting the artist it adores.
In the Mirror of Maya Deren is being shown at MoMA’s Roy and Niuta Titus Theatre tonight, July 23, at 7 p.m. Martina Kudlácek will be present for a discussion following the showing. The work of Deren and artists she influenced will continue to be displayed in MoMA’s Theatre Galleries through October 18.