Ed Emshwiller

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Ed Emshwiller (February 16, 1925-July 27, 1990) was a visual artist notable for illustrations of many science fiction magazine covers and for his pioneering experimental films. He usually signed his illustrations as Emsh but sometimes used the signatures Ed Emsh and Emsler.

Born in Lansing, Michigan, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1947, and then studied at École des Beaux Arts (1949-1950) in Paris with his wife, the award-winning writer Carol Emshwiller (née Fries), whom he married on August 30, 1949. He also studied at the Art Students League of New York (1950-51).

Between 1951 and 1979, Emshwiller created covers and interior illustrations for dozens of science fiction paperbacks and magazines, notably Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. During this time he won five Hugo Awards for Best Artist: 1953 (tied with Hannes Bok), 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964. There is no "typical" Emsh cover. His painterly treatment for the August 1951 Galaxy prefigures later work by Leo and Diane Dillon.


Film and video

Emshwiller's footage of Bob Dylan singing "Only a Pawn in Their Game" on July 6, 1963 at a Voters' Registration Rally in Greenwood, Mississippi appears in D. A. Pennebaker's film of Dylan, Dont Look Back, in addition to his own film, The Streets of Greenwood (1962).

In 1964 a Ford Foundation grant allowed Emshwiller to pursue his interest in film. Active in the New American Cinema movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, he created multimedia performance pieces, painted in China[citation needed] and did cine-dance and experimental films, while also working as a cinematographer on low-budget features and documentaries.

His films of the 1960s were mostly shot in 16mm color, and some of these included double exposures created simply by rewinding the cameras. Beginning with Scape-Mates (1972) he shifted to experiments in video, combining computer animation with live-action. In 1979 he produced Sunstone, a ground-breaking three-minute 3-D computer-generated movie made at the New York Institute of Technology with Alvy Ray Smith.


After a period as artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory WNET/13 (New York), he moved to California and served as dean of the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of Arts from 1979 to 1990. He also served as provost from 1981 through 1986. In 1987 he created Hungers for the 1987 Los Angeles Arts Festival, in partnership with composer Morton Subotnick. It was his last completed work, Hunger, presented in October 1989 at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria.

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