Falling is about everything we fall into. Falling in love, falling forward, backward and sideways, falling for something, falling and catching yourself, falling asleep and getting up. It never stops.
Mary Trunk is a filmmaker, choreographer, and multi-media artist living in Altadena, CA. Her films take seemingly simple subjects—a family’s unraveling, the choices women make as they navigate identities as mothers and artists, how dancers age— and illuminates how each radiates out to bigger questions: how do we make sense of our histories? What paths are available to us? How do we create meaning within our lives? She has been producing and directing documentaries, dance videos, experimental hybrid films, and paintings for more than 30 years. Mary is also a film, video, and screen dance Professor at Loyola Marymount University, Mt. St. Mary’s University and Art Center College of Design.
I started out drawing and painting, became a choreographer and then a filmmaker. Each practice brings new ideas and approaches. They continually inform and influence each other. Sometimes they become part of one work, for example dance videos which incorporate cinematic techniques with choreography. I am curious about a lot of things and I’ve always been an observer. Curiosity and observation take me to challenging places in my work. But the most important part of making art for me is just to keep making it. If I don’t start somewhere and keep moving forward, observing the world, staying curious, I lose momentum. I lose out on the beauty of discovery. It’s as simple as putting the first mark on a drawing. How do I react to that? What’s the next mark? Is there another mark? What if I ruin it? I have to push it and risk destruction and not be afraid to start over. While this philosophy is certainly not new and does not set me apart from others, it has kept me working and creating. I made a choice to make a living as a college professor which definitely affords me time and space to follow my artistic pursuits. I teach film production, documentary filmmaking and screen dance. Not only do I have the wonderful opportunity to teach what I love doing, I have the huge benefit to continue learning. I am not that interested in the marketplace and I don’t have to be. It is important that my work connects with others because art is about communication. In all the work that I do, I try and create an emotional connection. Personal stories and experiences are what people seem drawn to and what they remember most after experiencing art. My documentary films often follow characters over many years. I establish a trust with my subjects so they feel safe revealing their vulnerabilities, their regrets, their accomplishments and their inner lives. In that way, viewers are able to see themselves. My films are about the tragedy of broken families, divorce, neglect and betrayal, the struggles and joys of raising children while keeping an artist identity, the beauty of dance, aging, architecture, music and intimate stories that we recognize in our own lives. My screen dance work combines the abstract movement language of dance with the camera. The work is a translation of a live dance performance into a cinematic experience that becomes a completely new art form, essentially a hybrid and synthesis of film and dance. My paintings and drawings are a continuation of an abstract language that affords me the opportunity to push an art piece to the point of no return. It’s a risk taking exercise which means many of them never see the light of day but I take this practice to my film and screen dance work. And I am able to take more risks there. It’s never really easy making art but it can be a pleasurable albeit sometimes frustrating experience. The biggest challenge for me is sharing it with the world, a world that may not understand or worse be indifferent to it. It is difficult to keep going when the connection doesn’t happen. And yet, it’s all I can do – keep going.