Mary EllenBute  
Country:   USA
7 nodes
As with many pioneer animators, Mary Ellen Bute is hardly known today, primarily because her films are not easily available in good prints. This was not always true. During a 25-year period, from 1934 until about 1959, the 11 abstract films she made played in regular movie theaters around the country, usually as the short with a first-run prestige feature, such as Mary of Scotland, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, or Hans Christian Andersen--which means that millions saw her work, many more than most other experimental animators. The diminutive Mary Ellen grew up in Texas, and retained a soft southern accent and genteel demeanor throughout her life. She studied painting in Texas and Philadelphia, but felt frustrated by the inability to wield light in a flowing time-continuum. She studied stage lighting at Yale in an attempt to gain the technical expertise to create a color organ which would allow her to paint with living light-and also haunted the studios of electronic genius Leo Theremin and Thomas Wilfred whose Clavilux instrument projected sensuous streams of soft swirling colors. She was drawn into filmmaking by a collaboration with the musician Joseph Schillinger, who had developed an elaborate theory about musical structure, which reduced all music to a series of mathematical formulae. Schillinger wanted to make a film to prove that his synchronization system worked in illustrating music with visual images, and Mary Ellen undertook the project of animating the visuals. The film was never completed, and a still published with an article by Schillinger in the magazine Experimental Cinema No. 5 (1934) makes it clear why: the intricate image, reminiscent of Kandinsky's complex paintings, would have taken a single animator years to redraw thousands of times. Accessed 24.10.06 from
6 Selected Statements
      Worktype Info Year Country Admin
Spook Sport Experimental Film 1940 USA Edit
Tarantella Abstract Film - 1941 USA Edit
Color Rhapsody Abstract Film - 1951 USA Edit
Polka Graph Abstract Film - 1952 USA Edit
Pastorale Abstract Film - 1953 USA Edit
Abstronic Abstract Film - 1954 USA Edit