Water Tank
image © Robert N. Morrissey + click to enlarge

View 2: Water Tank

Water Tank

11" x 15"


Framed in a 19th century birdseye maple frame with its original gilt liner. The mat is forest green linen and the filet surrounding the watercolor is water gilt. All materials are conservation and acid free. Museum glass.

Giclée print: $295 (unframed) Signed by Carlene Masters, the artist's widow.

Please note: Throughout their marriage Stan and Carlene took several car trips to the West during which he shot innumerable photographs that later inspired the entire group of Western Scenes. One trip in particular, to San Francisco in 1962, stands out above all the rest.

Masters bought his first movie camera in the early 1950's. For the next 15 years he explored the medium's possibilities, dabbling in comedy, time lapse, animation, and documentary. In the early 1960's, with a film called “The Storm” he made his first attempt at serious artistic expression in any medium.

With neither dialog, narration, nor evidence of a human presence, “The Storm” is only ten minutes long but a year in the making. He summarizes: “This film, set in a remote forest area, The Storm seeks to interpret the classic 'script' written by 'Mother Nature'”.

“A hawk circles over a remote forest area as the unrelenting sun bakes the earth. The animals lie quietly in the oppressive heat. Suddenly, a small white cloud appears and swiftly mushrooms into an awesome, boiling thunderhead. The wildlife, sensing sensing the impending danger, is apprehensive. The silent, frozen calm-before-the-storm is broken by a stirring leaf...the birds and animals scurry for shelter as the wind brings the full fury of the storm...blinding flashes punctuated by sharp thundercracks...a drenching downpour...a violent episode of sight and sound that eventually tapers to a gentle shower...a rainbow...jewel-like raindrops on a sunny leaf. The creatures of the forest cautiously reemerge to find that... while some damage has been done... the world is, for the most part, a cleaner, brighter place than before. The thirsty ground drinks in the water... the sun cracks the earth....a hawk circles above.............life goes on............”

The film is a low budget affair, but a magnificent achievement. Shot almost entirely on location in their back yard, Stan devised virtually all of the special effects himself and Carlene was involved in the production every step of the way. The furious wind is in reality Carlene's hair dryer to blowing a clump of wilted daisies or the single dry leaf. No tree actually fell. Instead, Stan rigged a system of ropes and swung the camera. Many of the animals were filmed at the zoo.

In the Spring of 1962 Masters submitted the film to The Photographic Society of America in San Francisco. Founded at the beginning of the 20th century, the PSA is an organization of amateur photographers and filmmakers, whose letterhead boasted “The World's Largest Photographic Organization”. George W. Cushman, chairman of the Motion Picture Division and author of at least four books on film making, responded to Stan's entry with an ecstatic letter dated Aug 2, 1962, which begins, “Dear Mr. Masters, It is my extremely happy duty to be able to inform you that your film 'THE STORM' has just been judged one of the TEN BEST in this year's annual Ten Best Film Competition.” He continues, “More than that, Mr. Masters, your film has won the PSA-MPD GOLD MEDAL for having been judged the best film in the contest.” The news gets better: “Furthermore, your film won the Dick Bird Nature Trophy for the best nature film.... the Cushman Sound Trophy for the most effective use of sound, and a new award for the best film editing, which is being awarded for the first time this year.” Cushman adds, “You may well be proud of your film. In the 33 years this contest has been held, THIS IS FIRST TIME THAT ANY FILM EVER WON FIVE TOP AWARDS!” (Emphasis original.) By the end of the letter, Cushman is on a first name basis: “Stan, I was one of the judges this year, and having seen your film I can compliment you on it. In my opinion it is a classic of motion picture making. ... In fact, Stan, all six judges voted for it for the five awards it won. It has been years since any film received a unanimous decision by the judges for the Gold Medal Award.”

The following year, in 1963, Stan submitted The Storm to the Amateur Film Festival at Cannes, France, where it competed against over 300 entrants from around the world. It won First Prize in the “Abstract” category. A stunning achievement, Stan received write-ups in the local newspapers and industry journals and the film was shown on the local PBS station.

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