The Paintings of Filmmaker/Visual Artist David Lynch

I Burn Pinecone and throw it in your house

David Lynch

It was 1967, and David Lynch, a stu­dent at the Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­e­my of the Fine Arts, was up late in his stu­dio when he had a vision. The plants in the paint­ing he was work­ing on seemed to be mov­ing. “I’m look­ing at this and hear­ing this,” he recalled, “and I say, ‘Oh, a mov­ing paint­ing.’ And that was it.”

That thun­der­bolt of an idea put him on the road towards cre­at­ing some of the most unset­tling and sur­re­al images in cin­e­ma from the danc­ing dream dwarf in Twin Peaks to those freaky lit­tle peo­ple in Mul­hol­land Dri­ve. His first step was the mul­ti­me­dia work “Six Men Get­ting Sick” – a large-scale work con­sist­ing of paint­ing, sculp­ture and a one-minute film loop, Lynch’s first for­ay into film. His sub­se­quent ear­ly film work, from The Grand­moth­er to Eraser­head, feels like an exten­sion of his fine art work. “As a painter, you do every­thing your­self, and I thought cin­e­ma was that way,” Lynch said, “like a paint­ing, but you have peo­ple help­ing you.” Of course, by the time he made his big bud­get dud Dune, he was thor­ough­ly dis­abused of that notion.

Yet while becom­ing one of Hollywood’s most influ­en­tial direc­tors, he con­tin­ued to paint. Last year his alma mater unveiled a ret­ro­spec­tive of his art­work from 1965 to the present called “David Lynch: The Uni­fied Field.” Much of the work is from the late-90s on, a time when Lynch found him­self detach­ing more and more from Hol­ly­wood. His last fea­ture film, Inland Empire, came out in 2006. Appar­ent­ly, he was spend­ing much of his free time in the stu­dio.

At 3 A.M. I Am Here With The Red Dream

David Lynch

His work dur­ing this peri­od is inten­tion­al­ly crude and child­like, com­bin­ing car­toon­ish images with preg­nant, semi-intel­li­gi­ble text. Sure, his paint­ings don’t have the pri­mal, psy­cho­sex­u­al pow­er of his movies, but there is still some­thing com­pelling about them. Take, for insis­tence, the mul­ti­me­dia work “I Burn Pinecone and throw it in your house” (top). It looks like a dement­ed children’s book nar­rat­ed by a crazed moun­tain man.

“At 3 A.M. I Am Here With The Red Dream” (mid­dle) looks like the prod­uct of a men­tal patient, com­plete with smudged out text and Hen­ry Darg­er-esque girl legs.

Grim Augury

David Lynch

Of course, Lynch didn’t restrict him­self to paint­ing. He has also worked in dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy. In his 2009 work, Unti­tled (Grim Augury #1), (bot­tom) Lynch depicts a Sun­day din­ner gone hor­ri­bly, inex­plic­a­bly, wrong.

You can watch a video of the exhib­it below. Find an online gallery of Lynch’s artis­tic works here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch’s Unlike­ly Com­mer­cial for a Home Preg­nan­cy Test (1997)

David Lynch Teach­es You to Cook His Quinoa Recipe in a Weird, Sur­re­al­ist Video

What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Cam­era and 52 Sec­onds of Film

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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