A Night With Danny Lyon
Danny and two of his films, Willie and Murderers
on July 18th, 2018  7:30 p.m.
at The Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon.
Q&A to follow

curated by Vanessa Renwick

"Photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon, ever restless, throws himself into the great, troubled world, and he continues to empathize with the displaced and the dispossessed, insuring that their struggles don’t go unseen."
- The New Yorker

Born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, Lyon is a photographer and filmmaker working in the style of New Journalism. As the photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the ‘60s, Lyon documented major historical events of the Civil Rights Movement. His restless urge to seek out complex social stories led him across America, creating multi-year photographic studies of Texas prison inmates and Chicago biker culture. He brings the same raw intensity and vision to his documentary film work. (His storied career has been the subject of a recent retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.)

Linked by the harshness of American incarceration and deep empathy for the complexity and chaos of life at the fringes, these two films exemplify Lyon’s legacy as an ally to outlaws and outcasts everywhere.

Willie (New Mexico, 1985, 16mm, 82 minutes, color/b&w) profiles Willie Jaramillo, a resident of Bernalillo, New Mexico. Defiantly individual and implaccable in the face of authority, Willie is repeatedly thrown into jail for minor offenses. The camera gains access to jail cells, day rooms, lunatic wards and the penitentiary cell block where Willie is eventually locked up next to his childhood friend, convicted murderer Michael Guzman.

Murderers (Arkansas and New Mexico, 2005, digital video, 30 minutes, color), shares the stories of five murderers in three different states: Jessie, newly out in NYC after serving eight and half years for beating a man to death with a baseball bat. Michael Guzman (Willie’s friend from the earlier film), incarcerated 25 years now, opening up about his abusive childhood. Pinkie, who has spent eight years on Death Row. Mojo, 13 years since his conviction of accomplice to a friend’s murder of his adoptive parents. Finally, Harold Davey Cassel, a.k.a. Dinker (who is featured in Lyon’s book “Like a Thief’s Dream”), implicated in his burglary partner’s murder of a policeman.

Lyon will introduce his films, and conduct a short conversation with Vanessa and audience Q&A afterwards.

Five years ago I discovered that the photographer Danny Lyon was also an author and a filmmaker. I saw a few of his films, was floored, and started talking about them to friends. Some did not even know him as a photographer, and some who knew of him, did not know of his films either. My friend Ed Halter, critic and curator, did not know of the films. I wrote to Danny and told him I would like to bring him to Portland and have more people see the work. He told me it should wait, since there was going to be a big retrospective of his work at the Whitney, and new film prints and transfers would be made. In a strange twist, Ed Halter ended up writing an essay on his films for the Whitney retrospective catalogue Message To The Future.
Ed recently said of Danny, "He's an astonishing filmmaker - it's CRAZY that he's not better known."

I agree.
And Libby Werbel from PMOMA says, "This artist has been working with and thinking about the imprisoned population, social justice, and advocacy for fringe cultures for over 50 years. This art is substantial. ONE NIGHT ONLY." 

This evening is organized by The Oregon Department of Kick Ass in collaboration with PMOMA.