Films aflame

Artist Eve-Lau­ryn LaFoun­tain

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Paul Wei­de­man The New Mex­i­can

Artist Eve-Lau­ryn LaFoun­tain

IN AWASISHKODE (Be­yond the Fire), a per­for­mance piece at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Art, mul­ti­me­dia artist Eve-Lau­ryn Lit­tle Shell LaFoun­tain stages an im­pro­vi­sa­tional di­a­logue with mu­si­cian Jon Al­maraz. “A lot of what I do is start­ing with some­thing sim­ple like a pho­to­graph, then do­ing rel­a­tively sim­ple tech­niques to it but then ex­pos­ing the magic that can hap­pen in a process,” she told Pasatiempo, “and I think of magic as hap­pen­stance or ac­ci­den­tal things that end up be­ing re­ally beau­ti­ful and chang­ing it com­pletely and usu­ally be­ing some­thing that you can’t re­peat.”

LaFoun­tain, who grew up in Santa Fe, was pre­sented with a cam­era at age thir­teen by her fa­ther, and she’s been hooked on film pho­tog­ra­phy ever since. She went on to earn a bach­e­lor of arts de­gree from Hamp­shire Col­lege in Amherst, Mas­sachusetts, where she stud­ied ex­per­i­men­tal film, pho­tog­ra­phy, and Na­tive Amer­i­can stud­ies. In 2008, her Records of My Peo­ple — which she de­vel­oped as her se­nior project at Hamp­shire — won a Santa Fe In­dian Mar­ket pho­tog­ra­phy award en­dowed by gal­lerist An­drew Smith. Two years later, she was the first per­son to win the mar­ket’s Best of Clas­si­fi­ca­tion award in pho­tog­ra­phy. In the spring of 2014 she re­ceived a dual MFA from Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of the Arts in pho­tog­ra­phy/me­dia and film/video. She is cur­rently a CalArts alumna artist-in-res­i­dence at the Los An­ge­les workspace col­lec­tive Maker City LA.

In her work, the mul­ti­me­dia artist of­ten ex­plores land­scape and cul­tural is­sues. For her 2006 piece The Wan­der­ers in Won­der­ment, she presents a jerky screen pop­ping with vis­ual static. A pair of scis­sors en­ters the field by it­self (via stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion)

It’s in­ter­est­ing to re­pur­pose these im­ages made by oth­ers and think of a col­lec­tive mem­ory of land­scape and cul­ture and art.

— Eve-Lau­ryn LaFoun­tain

and cuts pieces from a square of cloth. A dis­em­bod­ied nee­dle sews the cloth into a pouch­like form, then cot­ton fluffs stuff them­selves into it. The sound­track is puls­ing with wa­tery white noise, pos­si­bly a record­ing of a shore. Filmed nat­u­ral scenes are ac­com­pa­nied by gen­tle mu­sic, and then a lit­tle cloth char­ac­ter en­ters, rid­ing a lit­tle cloth horse. The mu­sic shifts to some­thing re­sem­bling En­nio Mor­ri­cone’s sound­tracks to Clint East­wood spaghetti Westerns, as the lit­tle fig­ure rides through the woods and to the shore.

“He’s hav­ing a lit­tle adventure,” LaFoun­tain said about the film, one of 11 on her web­site, www.lit­tleshel­ls­tu­dios.com. “When I put those films up on that Vimeo page, it was like, Oh, wow, there are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties. But when you’re work­ing on them, it just seems like ev­ery project is so rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the one be­fore. This idea is su­per new and fresh, then you think, No, it’s ex­actly like that thing I did ten years ago.”

The woods and lake scenes in The Wan­der­ers in Won­der­ment and other films point to the land­scape

of her Chippewa — or, more prop­erly, Anishi­naabe — her­itage. “Chippewa is the An­gli­cized ver­sion of it,” she said. “Of­fi­cially what’s on our tribal ros­ter is Turtle Moun­tain Band of Chippewa In­di­ans, but we re­fer to our­selves as Ojibwe peo­ple and Anishi­naabe re­ally just means peo­ple, like the peo­ple of the land. It’s a more gen­eral term. Anishi­naabe is also another word for the north­ern lakes tribes.”

Another of her mov­ing-im­age works is In the Ghost Land (2010), fea­tur­ing im­ages of what looks like a ghost town and mu­sic that ref­er­ences both the In­dian an­ces­try of her fa­ther, Chippewa sculp­tor Bruce LaFoun­tain, and her mother Mar­Lyn LaFoun­tain’s Jewish her­itage. The 2013 film Smudge Se­ries fea­tures mu­sic by Al­maraz. “We work to­gether a lot. He’s in Los An­ge­les also. He has a mu­sic project called Bulbs and he’s been a great in­flu­ence on me. The first piece we did to­gether was El­der­berry, Black Wal­nut, Oak, which was a dual-screen 16mm film that I made on a pin­hole mo­tion-pic­ture cam­era.”

While some film­mak­ers may at­tach a hand­made pin­hole lens to a reg­u­lar 16mm cam­era, LaFoun­tain built the whole cam­era. “This is some­thing I’ve been do­ing for a num­ber of years and it’s not sim­ple. You have to make sure you don’t get just a streak of light. The film does have to pause.” The hand-cranked film lends a some­what choppy feel­ing to the re­sult­ing movie. “That’s kind of the magic of it, be­cause it’s al­ways some­thing dif­fer­ent. It’s re­ally very ab­stract. It’s hard to see im­ages in a lot of it. And I hand-process the film, too, so that adds another layer.”

For the Awasishkode per­for­mance, LaFoun­tain ex­pands on her MoCNA ex­hi­bi­tion Waa­ban­ishimo (She Dances Till Day­light). “That’s a solo show of pho­to­graphs, and then in another part of the gallery I’ll have films play­ing on TV mon­i­tors.” Awasishkode in­volves mul­ti­ple pro­jec­tors — show­ing both 35mm slides and mo­tion-pic­ture films — ac­com­pa­nied by Al­maraz’s sound trans­formed by means of ana­log and dig­i­tal ma­nip­u­la­tions. “Our ways of work­ing are re­ally sim­i­lar. He starts from the gui­tar, then he puts it through all these dif­fer­ent ped­als that he’s pro­grammed to make spe­cific sounds. See­ing him per­form is re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause you see him play­ing gui­tar, but the sounds don’t sound any­thing like a gui­tar. That’s what I like do­ing with im­age­mak­ing, start­ing with some­thing very ba­sic and ana­log and push­ing it to the ex­treme.”

This will be their sec­ond live per­for­mance. The first one was in Fe­bru­ary at the Echo Park Film Cen­ter, where LaFoun­tain is a co-op mem­ber, teach­ing 16mm film classes and cu­rat­ing screen­ings.

The per­for­mance de­scrip­tion for Awasishkode says the light from the pro­jec­tors “is in­ter­rupted with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als, which ‘ex­plode’ the im­ages be­yond the screen.” LaFoun­tain ex­plained that parts of the pro­jected im­ages are re­flected around the room as she wields a va­ri­ety of glass fil­ters and mir­rors and other re­flec­tive ma­te­ri­als. The imagery is from footage she shot last year in Santa Fe and still pho­tos from found slides. “About two years ago, I found an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of slides of Mon­u­ment Val­ley from the ’60s and they’re gor­geous, so I think I’ll use some of those in the per­for­mance. It’s in­ter­est­ing to re­pur­pose these im­ages made by oth­ers and think of a col­lec­tive mem­ory of land­scape and cul­ture and art.”

From left to right, a cap­ture from Eve-Lau­ryn LaFoun­tain’s Ghost Woman pro­jec­tion piece; a mo­ment from her Shell Sky, a lay­ered 35mm slide pro­jec­tion; be­low, mu­si­cian Jon Al­maraz; bot­tom, LaFoun­tain, photo Mar­Lyn LaFoun­tain

Op­po­site page, LaFoun­tain and Al­maraz in Gi­izis

Mooka’am (Sun/Moon Rise), per­form­ing at a Los An­ge­les gallery in June

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