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An Eery Silence Comes to Brookings with "Night Hunter"
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Night Hunter

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.

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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.