Haunted Homeowner

Over the course of her long life, Sarah Winchester, a somewhat batshit crazy woman who deserves every kind word you can think of, never stopped adding on to her house. Taking the advice of a medium, she attempted to calm the ghosts of people killed by the Winchester guns (she was the widow of gun magnate William Winchester) by giving them rooms of their own. You know the story; perhaps you've been to her dwelling, now a tourist trap in San Jose with 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, and miles of hallways. It also has stairs ending in a ceiling, doors opening into midair, and a fascination with the number 13 -- the contractor must have had a ball down there.

The Winchester Mystery House is a great example of outsider architecture, but late artist Jeremy Blake made good use of the story for his fine-art video works. His hallucinatory suite of digital animations, "The Winchester Trilogy," first appeared in 2002, combining footage of the house, painted imagery, Rorschach-y blobs of color, and spooky sound to explore the atmospheric, haunting aspect of his subject. A new distillation of the trilogy, "Winchester Redux," offers a single, abridged version of the piece.

Blake achieved a lot in his 35 years. His lush, opulent videos bridged the gaps between painting, cinema, photography, and digital technology, landing him in the Whitney and the SFMOMA. He also worked on commercial projects, such as Beck's Round the Bend video and the digital sequences in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love. Last summer, however, despondent over his girlfriend's suicide, he swam into the waters off New York's Rockaway Beach and died, leaving behind a still-rising reputation and a stunned art world.

"Winchester Redux" runs concurrently with "The Road to Paradise" by Chester Arnold.
April 10-19, 2008

 
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