Marie Menken’s films and paintings reveal a stunning fondness for the rhythms of nature, technology, and human custom. Her friends and acolytes—Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger among them—attest to her influence in Martina Kudlácek’s
Notes on Marie Menken, which seeks to establish this fringiest of fringe artist’s rightful place in the annals of avant-garde history. Kudlácek understands the tragedy of a great film artist’s work rusting away in mini storage, from which Menken’s nephew resurrects incredible footage of his eccentric aunt observing the rituals of grave-digging monks and Andy Warhol goofing around on her rooftop. But while it opens a rare window into an unconventional life, this portrait of an artist as an old woman is prone to strange distractions. Perhaps starving for filler, Kudlácek decides to make visual art of her own, lingering on the patterns of New York City precipitation and often losing complete sight of Menken, whose influence on the lives of her friends isn’t exactly obvious in the moments of Alfred Leslie obsessing over a rusty radiator or Billy Name stroking his beard.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2007