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.
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. Gerstner offers us peeks into the brilliant mind in his workspace habitat to show goofy, playful and cheeky side that humanises the influential art force that’s the Biss brand; these little peeks intertwine with a theoretical analysis into all of Biss’s aesthetic movements; from his signature oil painting work to his more experimental and spiritual work that encapsulates Native American history. Biss so painfully digests a tradition and culture deteriorating in one of his last few on-camera interviews within the documentary. EARL BISS: The Spirit Who Walks Among His People proves the definitive all-encompassing guide to the art legend; Gerstner does us proud and serves a priceless intimate encounter with Biss in her most sensitive, intricate, and metaphysical documentary yet. Grade B+
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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