The Donald Sutherland collection archived at the Auraria Library Special Collections Department reflects a particular area of interest for the late University of Colorado Boulder professor: avant-garde art and experimental artists, many of whom he corresponded with. (He also wrote to authors; we recently wrote of the signed Thomas Hornsby Ferril books in the archive.) But there's one curiosity in the collection whose presence is a mystery; no one, not even Lawrence Jordan, the artist who made it, knows for sure how it got there. It's a small, handmade art book made of stills from Sergei Eisenstein's 1944 film, Ivan the Terrible. See Also: - From the Archives: Degrees of Separation from Thomas Hornsby Ferril's Autograph - From the Archives: Allen Ginsberg's Postcards to Ed White - From the Archives: the periodicals of pot
The book is made from a brown stock, and stills of some of the film's most compelling frames are pasted on the pages. The inside cover bears the director's initials and surname in big block letters: S.M. EISENSTEIN. The page facing it carries an exaggerated sketch of the bony, broad-shouldered Ivan.
The inside back cover has the most information, and reads: "100 copies hand printed by Larry Jordan/ frontispiece drawing by Eisenstein." Everything is bound together by a delicate, hand-tied string. The book itself is a work of art, carefully arranged and crafted to pay homage to the classic Eisenstein frames.
Eisenstein was a well-known Soviet filmmaker who is sometimes called the "Father of Montage," and Lawrence Jordan absorbed a lot of his influence before becoming a well-known experimental filmmaker himself, mostly in the medium of animated collage. The unique visual taste he exhibited in making the Ivan the Terrible book is also clear in his art; his avant-garde collage films, such as Hamfat Asar, shown below, have garnered widespread acclaim and a Guggenheim fellowship.
Sutherland's holdings didn't give any indication as to where he would have come across Jordan's hand-bound book; although he wrote to a lot of artists, Jordan wasn't among them. So at the suggestion of Auraria archivist Rosemary Evetts, I decided to contact Jordan directly.
Jordan answered within an hour, and said he didn't know Don Sutherland. But he didn't seem surprised that the book was in the collection. "I made many trips to CU at one time to show films or teach, so one of the books may have followed me," he told me. "Also, he may have got it from Stan Brakhage. I'm sure I gave Stan one."
Stan Brakhage was another noted experimental filmmaker; the two went to school together at South High School in Denver. To determine whether Brakhage had known Sutherland, I revisited the container list -- an aid that archivists and researchers use to see what is contained in a collection -- and Brakhage was on it. Sutherland has correspondence from Brakhage from 1968 to 1970, but it's not clear whether Brakhage ever mentions the book in those writings, or whether it came from him at all. What is clear is how connective a figure Sutherland was for his artistic contemporaries, as evidenced by Brakhage's name showing up on that list of correspondents, right where Jordan said it might be -- tying everything neatly together.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!