Curt McDowell's Unabashed Short Films Expose Themselves to New Audiences

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Curt McDowell, Still from 'Confessions,' 1971. (Courtesy of Canyon Cinema)

As his friend, lover and collaborator George Kuchar put it, Curt McDowell was a “painter, pornographer, poet of the plebian and the perverse.” Since his death in 1987 at the age of 42, McDowell has remained a symbol of a certain time (spanning the Summer of Love to the beginning of the AIDS crisis) and aesthetic (messy, sexual, unapologetically campy) in San Francisco’s history.

But since his death, his work, which includes over 35 films, along with a treasure trove of drawings, collages, photographs and 40 bound diaries, has been largely out of the public eye.

That was, until this year. In May, Margaret Tedesco curated a show of works on paper from the Curt McDowell Estate at Et al.’s Mission District space, filling the gallery with illustrated renderings of McDowell’s friends, collaborators and family, and two nights of casual film screenings.

Now McDowell’s short film works get their own night at Minnesota Street Project with newly created 16mm prints made by the Academy Film Archive. This Thursday, Dec. 13 at 6:30pm, Canyon Cinema presents (in collaboration with UNTITLED art fair) a curated program deliciously titled “Stinky Wieners and Dreamy Beavers: Curt McDowell Restorations.”

Introduced by Jon Davies, with a post-screening conversation between Davies and Curt’s sister (and longtime collaborator) Melinda McDowell, “Stinky Wieners” will demonstrate to audiences, once again, what Kuchar said of McDowell’s films: “His was not a cinema of dead meat: His beefcake was hot off the streets and the cheesecake was equally tart and titillating.”