Tara Nelson (2014)
Tara Nelson

Nelson received a Tree of Life Individual Support Grant in 2014 for Composition in Film: The Notebooks of Rose Lowder.


Nelson became interested in experimental film while living in Pittsburgh, and became involved with a filmmaking collective known as Jefferson Presents. In 2008, they were invited to perform their films on 16mm Analyst projectors at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2009, Nelson moved to Boston to attend graduate school at the Massachusetts College of Art, where she focused on Super 8 and 16mm film production and projection. During this time, she worked as an intern at the Harvard Film Archive, inspecting and cataloging 16mm film prints. Her graduate thesis focused on the work of Rose Lowder, and she was able to secure funding to invite Rose to the United States to show her work in Boston, New York, Milwaukee and Chicago. During this tour, she became familiar with Lowder’s sketchbooks, which illuminated the research and methodology behind Lowder’s beautiful films. Since graduating with her MFA, Nelson taught film production at Ithaca College, Cornell University, Montserrat College of Art, MassArt and the Cambridge School of Weston. Her writing has been published in multiple film journals and magazines.

Composition in Film: The Notebooks of Rose Lowder

Born in 1941, Rose Lowder has been a prolific practitioner of perceptual experiments with 16mm film since the 1970s. Over the course of her highly productive career, she has composed more than fifty films, mostly in and around her home in the bucolic region of Avignon, France. Composing her films almost entirely in-camera, Lowder’s precise, frame-by-frame technique quietly approaches the natural world, creating new perceptual relationships between light, color and motion. Not only are her films visually stunning and aesthetically profound, but they are also investigations into experimental film as an instrument for visual research. Each film works directly with the human perceptual mechanism to carefully explore the dynamics of our visual relationship to the world. Lowder has kept detailed notebooks that include images, ideas, designs, and production notes related to the process of creating films that explore the possibilities presented by the 16mm format. Her training as a painter is apparent in the colorful details of each film design. Her notations are extraordinarily clear, precise, and well-drafted, much like the score of a musician or the sketch of a painter.

These notebooks are works of art that provide insight into Lowder’s conceptual and practical processes as she conducts her research and experimentation with films. The ultimate goal of this project is a publication featuring a selection of pages from Lowder’s notebooks, including essays and articles written by Lowder over the course of her career. It will also include a selection of critical writing on Lowder’s work by contemporary critics and authors. The Tree of Life Grant will fund the first stage, which would allow me to conduct detailed research and gather data for the book.

For more information about Rose Lowder, visit the following links: