Stan Brakhage (1933-2003)

Stan BrakhageStan Brakhage was integral to the Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts at CU Boulder, helping to shape and nurture the program for more than twenty years through the films he made and the wide range of innovative courses he taught. He began teaching here in 1981, and retired as Distinguished Professor a few months before his death. He regularly held salons on art and filmmaking, first at his home and later at the University, and these events had an inestimable influence on all who attended. Although Brakhage expressed skepticism about teaching art making, saying that true art was not teachable, he was in fact an enthusiastic and highly accomplished teacher, and his lectures and salons provided instrumental guidance for a generation of film artists. Brakhage’s courses included Painting and Film, Biographical Film, Avant-Garde Cinema, Documentary Film, and Transcendental Film. A vital source of inspiration to his students and colleagues, his legacy remains central to the vision of the program.

In celebration of Stan Brakhage, the campus holds a screening of his films on the first Sunday of every month during the academic year.

The annual Brakhage Symposium began in April, 2005 as a forum to discuss and explore contemporary experimental film.


MothlightStan Brakhage is celebrated and honored around the globe as an inspirational, visionary film artist.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1933, Brakhage moved to Denver, Colorado at the age of six. He sang as a boy soprano soloist, dreamed of being a poet, and graduated from South High School in 1951 with a scholarship to Dartmouth. After one semester, he left to pursue a life in the Arts, returning to Denver to make his first film in 1952.
As a young man, Brakhage lived in San Francisco and New York associating with many other poets, musicians, painters and filmmakers, including Robert Duncan, Kenneth Rexroth, John Cage, Edgard Varese, Joseph Cornell, Maya Deren and Marie Menken. A youthful “poet-with-a-camera,” Brakhage soon emerged as a significant film artist, evolving an entirely new form of first person, lyrical cinema.

Brakhage married Jane Collom in 1957, and from the early 60s they lived in Rollinsville, Colorado, making films and raising their five children. Brakhage also continued to travel around the country and abroad becoming a leading figure of the American avant-garde film movement. He lived in Boulder from1986, and in 2002 moved to Canada with his second wife, Marilyn, and their two children.

Before his death in March, 2003, Brakhage had completed more than 350 films, ranging from the psycho-dramatic works of the early 1950s to autobiographical lyrics, mythological epics, “documents,” and metaphorical film “poems” — variously employing his uniquely developed hand-held camera and rapid editing techniques, multiple superimpositions, collages, photographic abstractions, and elaborate hand-painting applied directly to the surface of the film. A deeply personal filmmaker, Brakhage’s great project was to explore the nature of light and all forms of vision – while encompassing a vast range of subject matter. He frequently referred to his works as “visual music” or “moving visual thinking.” The majority of his films are intentionally silent.

Brakhage taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and as Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The recipient of three Honorary Degrees and numerous prestigious awards, he lectured extensively on filmmaking and the Arts, and is the author of 11 books – including his seminal 1963 work, Metaphors On Vision, and his more recent series of essays, Telling Time.

Marilyn Brakhage
Victoria, BC Canada
December 2007