Essential West Magazine
“Earl Biss, The Spirit Who Walks Among His People” is a documentary that sheds light on this ground breaking, dynamic, mystical, and controversial Crow artist. Earl Biss (1947 – 1998) was a profound contributor to the explosion of Southwestern Art in the last half of the 20th century, and particularly to the rise of Contemporary Native American Art. His compelling portraits of Plains Indian horsemen, his phenomenal grasp of the medium of oil painting, and the sheer exuberance of his palette and brushwork earned him a place in the history books of modern art. He was, according to one Southwest Art critic and collector, "The greatest colorist of the 20th century."
The film showcases masterful art while giving deep insight into the man that created it. Archival footage of Biss speaking and painting, and interviews with tribal members, friends, art dealers, and patrons paint an unforgettable story – a joyous, dynamic, tumultuous journey to success in the art world.
My favorite artist is Earl Biss. Number two, Vincent van Gogh. When I say Earl Biss is my favorite artist, I’m not grading on a scale. I don’t mean my favorite American painter or Native American artist; I mean my favorite artist.
Looking at his paintings – and this happened from the very first instance I ever saw one – I felt a spiritual connection to them, and him, unlike anything before or since. That first time was at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in Saint Petersburg, FL and I remember the moment as distinctly as I do seeing my wife for the first time. Lisa Gerstner‘s documentary, “Art of Native America: Earl Biss – The Spirit Who Walks Among His People,” released in late April of 2023 on Amazon Prime, Vimeo and Vudu, beautifully shares Biss’ genius and spirit.
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Much like a narrative film, a documentary’s only as good as its character, and Lisa Gerstner serves us the great Earl Biss, the Monet of Contemporary Native American Art, in all his philosophical and metaphysical profundity; through rare archival footage of the artistic genius himself, and hard-working investigative interview journalism with the art world’s finest critics, collectors and curators to make the definitive biographical documentary and historiographic odyssey into the artist and his imprinted truth. Gerstner’s sophistication and passion for the documentary’s construction show from the get-go, and when such personal investment goes into a documentary, it can never go wrong.
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The fascinating and messy life of renowned Crow Nation painter and longtime Aspenite Earl Biss is the stuff of Hollywood tall tales, the dreams of biographers. Filmmaker Lisa Gerstner contends with the artist’s genius along with his contradictions and mysteries in her new film “Earl Biss: The Spirit Who Walks Among His People.”
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The movie was stunningly well done. The detailed production values, the immensely creative editing, the mixture of music, and the rhythm of the entire film was brilliant. It is a work of art. The piece is spiritual, poignant, emotional, stirring, and inspiring. What an excellent job you have done! I am in hopes that it will be circulated on many platforms so others can see what I saw.
Christie Holliday, Television Broadcast Operations
Don't they know they can't capture a medicine man? - Earl Biss. The greatest artists reach people and touch their hearts and souls. Their mark is permanent. And alive. And filled with the same magnificent beauty as when the artist themselves first discovered it, molded it and presented it to the world for each of us to find it, drink it in and let it fully encompass our beings transforming us into something better and filling in a space we didn't know we had. Earl Biss accomplishes this in his art. And the award-winning Lisa Gerstner, the brilliantly talented director, producer and editor of this wonderful documentary also accomplishes it through her story- telling of him.
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