Harry + Homer: Mid Century Oregon Genius @ Hollywood Theatre/Jan. 16 & 17

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 On Friday Jan. 16 and Saturday Jan. 17, 2015, the Mid Century Oregon Genius series returns to the Hollywood Theatre to celebrate Harry Smith (1923-1991) and Homer Groening (1919-1996).

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Harry Smith was born in Portland. He grew up in Bellingham, Washington, a second generation black sheep whose paternal grandmother was a member of the most powerful family in town, the Deming family, whose Pacific American Fisheries had more than 30 canneries in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. An artist from childhood, he began making abstract animated films in San Francisco as an extension of his painting.

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This screen shot of Oregon Cartoon Institute’s 2013 screening of Heaven And Earth Magic at the Hollywood Theatre was taken by Paul Wolfe.

On Jan. 16, 2015 at 7:00 PM, film historian Dennis Nyback will return to the Hollywood with his multi-projector recreation of Harry Smith’s 1962 expanded cinema masterpiece HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC. Using meticulous cut out animation and a sound track composed entirely of sound effects, Smith tells an eerie, austere story of a woman, a toothache and a watermelon.

After HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC, Mississippi Records owner Eric Isaacson and Harry Smith historian Chuck Pirtle will join Dennis Nyback onstage to discuss Harry Smith’s dual identities as collector and artist, and to explore the connection between collecting and creating.

Homer Groening, Harry Smith’s generational cohort, grew up in Albany, Oregon, and spent his entire adult life in Portland. He opened his own advertising agency in 1958, and began making award winning short art films on the side in the early 1960s.

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On Jan. 17, 2015 at 7:00 PM, Mid Century Oregon Genius will present a program of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening. Two time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton will introduce. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Lisa Groening. She will discuss her father with three people who knew him as friend, colleague and role model: Tom Shrader, Ted Mahar, and Bill Plympton.

Thank you to the Groening family for their generous loan of films for this program!

Strange but true: although their lives and career paths diverge in every other way, Harry Smith and Homer Groening were both, in the early 1960s, making non narrative experimental films. A STUDY IN WET, by Homer Groening, uses a sound track composed of found sounds of water dripping, just as the score for Harry Smith’s stop motion animated feature, HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC, is composed entirely of sounds taken from one (1) sound effects record.

Just as Harry Smith appropriated images from 19th century mail order catalogs to populate his dream landscape, in A STUDY IN WET, Homer Groening turns an ordinary object, his surfboard, into Japanese calligraphy.

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Harry Smith and Homer Groening are a study in contrasts. One similarity: Both remained independent artists who chose their own projects, and reaped their own rewards. Since this was true for  James Blue and James Ivory, the other two filmmakers celebrated in Mid Century Oregon Genius,  it appears the independent writer-director-producer is, like wine, beer, salmon, stripping, and rain, a regional specialty.

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Posters and video by Josh Winsor. Thank you, Josh.

Tickets for the Jan. 16 screening of Harry Smith’s Heaven And Earth Magic and the Jan. 17 screening of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening are available at www.hollywood.org.

See you there!

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Mid Century Oregon Genius is supported by grants from Kinsman Foundation and Miller Foundation, and is fiscally sponsored by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission.

The Jan. 17 screening of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening is co-sponsored by MovieMaker Magazine.

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