David Lynch: Six Men Getting Sick

Exhibition Info
Curated by
Robert Cozzolino, Senior Curator and Curator of Modern Art
David Lynch's transformative installation, now in PAFA's permanent collection.

One night while painting an image of garden plants in his studio at PAFA, David Lynch (b. 1946) experienced something that changed his life. He paused from work and looked at the canvas only to perceive sound and motion coming from within. “I’m looking at the painting and from the painting came a wind. . . And the green garden plants began to move. . . And I’m looking at this and hearing this and I say, ‘Oh, a moving painting.’ And that was it.”

The result of this experience was Six Men Getting Sick, Lynch’s response to the idea of a moving painting. Hand painted and shot with a cheap camera at two frames per image, the sixty-second looped film shows six men whose stomachs—rendered in a deadpan anatomy-manual style—fill up with liquid that rushes upward to be ejected out of their mouths. In the process, the word “SICK” flashes across their bodies, they experience excessive organic transformations, searing red fills the screen, and the scene catches fire amidst a constant wailing siren.

Six Men Getting Sick pointed Lynch towards a new way of working. It is a hybrid artwork rather than, as has been asserted, his “first film.” Lynch, with the help of longtime friend and fellow PAFA student Jack Fisk, cast his body and integrated the resulting sculptures into a massive three-dimensional screen onto which this animated loop was aimed. The piece is an integrated painting, film, sculpture, installation, and sound piece that set the tone for the kind of work Lynch would pursue—not film alone, but a unified vision of multisensory experience working together.

PAFA is proud to present this installation, a recent addition to the permanent collection, for an extended viewing beyond the close of David Lynch: The Unified Field.