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Paul Sharits

American, 1943–1993

Reproduced with permission by The Paul Sharits Estate

Frame Study 15: Study for “Specimen II”, 1975

Ink on graph paper
17 x 22 inches (43.2 x 55.9 cm)
National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant and Matching Funds, 1975

Paul Sharits began as a painter but became interested in film. Born in Denver in 1943, he was one of several experimental filmmakers who became instructors in the Center for Media Study at the University at Buffalo in 1973. He remained there until his death in 1993. Sharits was interested less in the illusions created through movies and more in the structure and nature of film itself. His work called attention to the fact that film was a strip of images on a celluloid material that moved through a projector. Because of his training as a painter, he never lost interest in drawing. He drew images like Frame Study 15: Study for “Specimen II,” 1975, on graph paper and used them to generate his films in the same way one would use a musical score to generate a work of music. He said, “The score is read like the book, from upper left to right, one line after another from top to bottom; as a drawing, it is read as a typical all-at-once structure.”

Sharits also made works that trapped the celluloid strips of film themselves between Plexiglas. He called these “Frozen Film Frames,” and they glow in light like stained glass windows. Sharits explained, “. . . in viewing painting our experience is changing while painting’s existence is enduring, in music both our experience and the existence of the music is changing; however in film we have a case where we can experience both a changing and enduring experience—we can look at the ‘same’ film as an object, before or after projection . . . and as temporal process while it is being projected on the stable support of the screen.”

Related Lesson Plan

Thinking in a New Way about Movies (Grades 3–12)