Jennifer Reeves has made a number of deeply metaphorical hand-painted films. The Girl’s Nervy (1995) combines painted clear leader and photographed images over a warped big-band soundtrack of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey that is reversed at the film’s beginning. As suggested by the work’s title, the color splatters here appear like the synapses or nerve endings of a sensory skeleton. The music from a bygone age speaks to nostalgia and invites us to dance, but its initial reversal tells about the passage of time. This theme is also apparent in the film’s images, which look like brain dendrites and seemingly refer to traces of memory continuously slipping away, a condition shared by the viewer who experiences Reeves’s film as a series of impressions rather than precisely rendered moments. Reeves says that Brakhage and Schneemann represent two of her greatest influences. Her hand-painted Fear of Blushing (2001) in particular bears the influence of Brakhage’s Dante series, with the important distinction that Reeves’s film carries a dark soundtrack of looped voices and distorted instruments, where Brakhage’s film is silent. Reeves’s process is her own, however, and brings to bear a number of painterly and cinematic techniques.
Her 16mm dual projection Light Work Mood Disorder (2007) combines found educational-film footage of scientific experiments and X-rays of the brain and body. Reeves also applies to the film a destructive salve made from fistfuls of dissolved pills–medicine for the heart, antibiotics, and psychological conditions. Rather than heal, the medicine causes the filmic body to deteriorate. The film is at once “sick” and beautiful, as the decayed footage blooms with chemically derived abstractions. Anthony Burr’s unsettling soundtrack combines organ, sine-wave generators, and bass clarinet to create pulsing tones. The decaying film rhymes with the medical footage, which hints at bodies in distress, breaking down, wearing away, even when receiving medical attention.