Silent screen star Lillian Gish furtively lays eggs, shares her living space with a menacing, enormous pit viper, and grapples with an entemophobic waking nightmare behind the walls of a Victorian dollhouse that pulses with life in Boulder-based artist Stacey Steers’ film Night Hunter.
Steers creates thousands of handmade collages or drawings in the making of a film, a process that takes several years to complete. Night Hunter transports silent film footage of Gish into a gently Gothic, ornate domestic environment in which richly textured wallpaper, writhing insects, egg mounds and shadowy birds intermingle, contract and expand.
The film, along with all of the preparatory collages, Night Hunter House — a model Victorian mansion Steers created with architect Mark Sofield — and shadow boxes can be experienced at the South Dakota Art Museum starting Friday (October 28). Explorers are welcomed into this world à la Todd Solondz through the windows of ten furnished rooms, where loops from the film are projected in miniature.
The engraved black-on-white elements that predominate throughout Night Hunter blend some of the solemnity of a Lynd Ward woodcut with a more playful, fantastical kind of spookiness, like a “horror” film by Jacques Tourneur. Splashes of color, like crimson ghost-scarves on the heroine’s neck or a here-than-gone nicotine tint on the eggs’ enamel accentuate the pulsing organicism of this cramped little world. A sparse, music boxy score by Larry Polansky, tiptoes pluckily across the creaky floorboards.
Night Hunter, the complete project, lives at the South Dakota Art Museum through February 25, 2017.