Ed Emshwiller Biography


Ed Emshwiller studied art at the University of Michigan. He began his art as an abstract expressionist painter. He also was a skilled science-fiction illustrator. After he made his science fiction paintings he then turned his attention to film and video.

Emshwiller was a highly respected video artist and a dean at the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts. He paved the way for future artists that were interested in experimental films. His films Relativity, Totem, Three Dancers and Thanatopsis all received awards at various film festivals.

Emshwiller's films were all very different but they all had one thing in common and that was boundaries. He kept trying new things and once he found something he liked he perfected it and moved on; a perfect example of this is his film Sunstone. Sunstone which was made in 1979 was a breakthrough in technology. His visions made it clear that he had a background in abstract art.

When he was just starting out Emshwiller experimented with synthesizers and computers, and electronic rendering of three- dimensional space; the interplay of illusion and reality. He also manipulated time, movement, and scale. In his early works he had a theme of dancers. One of his first films was Scape-mates. This film had both abstract and figurative elements. These elements were colorized dancers which were processed by a computer animated environment. Scape-mates brought a new vocabulary to space imaging.

One of Emshwiller's last films was Hungers. Hungers was the first film that had a tapestry of images and sounds suggestive of the hungers human beings all share: food, love , sex, power, security and so fourth. He died in 1990 but not before he could teach his students to follow their dreams and the visions.

--Stacey Miehe


Ed Emshwiller