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Silent generation on screen: after 40 years in the closet, filmmaker Pam Walton takes a deep breath.

Filmmaker Pam Walton recently completed her ninth film, Triptych, about women artists in their 70s. The documentary enters the studios of a ceramicist, a writer, and a painter to reveal how each of the artists sees the creative process.

In filming it, Walton learned more about her own artistic motivations. "I'm always interested in art," she says. "And I realized while I was making Triptych that I was exploring my own creativity. In fact--it's pretty subtle, but maybe somebody will discover it--it's not really a triptych, because the fourth artist is me!"

Walton has submitted the film as a documentary short to some seven film festivals, focusing mainly on women's festivals, because, she says, "that's where it has the best chance. It's more competitive than it's ever been [to get a spot in a festival], because anyone can make a film these days, and the equipment is so amazing, the technology so advanced. I expect to get into one or two of these that I've submitted to, but I've developed a thick skin over the years, and I don't faint when I get rejected."

That spirit of determination and resilience is in part what Triptych itself is about. And like the artists in the film, ceramicist Lana Wilson, writer Jeanne DuPrau, and painter Nan Golub, Walton herself has been developing her skills and creativity for decades.

But unlike the other women in her film, Walton had a stifling early life and a stifling early career. "I was in the closet for the first 40 years of my life," she reflects. In 1966, she earned an MA in education from Stanford and became a teacher. But after teaching high school for 20 years, she says, "I was dying. Public high schools are hard to be in!"

In 1985, Walton resigned from teaching. At that time, she says, "I was out to friends, but I wasn't out to students or parents, and it was getting to be so wearing." She changed direction, from teaching to filmmaking, and in the course of a master's program in film and video production at Stanford, she decided to make a film about lesbians. "So," she says, "I took a deep breath and went to my professors, who were pretty open to it."

Waltons masters thesis was Out in Suburbia, which was simulcast in New York and San Francisco with Marlon Riggs's film Tongues Untied. Out in Suburbia got plenty of attention, but not all of it was positive. Walton says, "Some people said it was too whitewashed, and it ignored too many lesbians--women on bikes, women into S&M. We had to deal with that whole thing, but it was exciting because it got lots of publicity. After that, I thought, I'm going to make as many films about gay and lesbian people as I can.

"And I did. I did Gay Youth, and then Family Values, about my father, who was a right-wing nut, way beyond Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, into the crazy end of the right wing." Her subsequent films include Call to Witness and Liberty: 3 Stories of Life and Death, which Walton says is about the importance of chosen families. "My chosen, lesbian family was the family who stood by me in my adult life, and I'm thankful for that," Walton says.

Pam Walton Productions--Walton is producer/director and her life partner, Ruth Carranza, is associate director--has also made several films that weren't gay-themed. Now Walton says, "With gay marriage coming to the front and being legalized in so many states, it feels like a major victory. From here, it feels like we're on our way to full equality. So it hasn't made me feel that urgency about making films about gay and lesbian people. We included Nan [the only openly lesbian artist in Triptych] and her lover, but sexuality isn't the focus of the film.

When she conceived Triptych, Walton says, "My interest was turning to aging, because of course I'm aging. And I wanted something that I could take my time with. I didn't want some pressing issue like immigration or gay marriage that would have a deadline, and I wanted to do something that I really loved. We started working on it in, I think, 2010.

"Lana Wilson, the ceramic artist, is an old friend. I knew her in high school. I reconnected with her about five years ago and went to see her at Berkeley. She showed me her studio and some of the things she was making, and I thought, Oh my God, this is wonderfully visual, to see something take shape from a big blob of clay. So we first thought we'd make a video together, and then as it got going, we thought, Why limit this? Well include two other artists, and make it bigger."

The hardest part of making the film for Walton was portraying her friend Nan Golub, the New York painter. "She's very private," says Walton," and I've used her in some of my other films. I've kind of worn her out, I think. I had to go back several times and talk to her. She was very reticent about doing the sit-down interview. She was afraid, I think, that I was going to ask her too many personal questions that she didn't want to answer. It's interesting because she says, 'I don't want to talk about my art,' yet she has so many great things to say."

The future of Pam Walton Productions may depend in part on the reviews of Triptych. Regardless, though, Walton says, "My wife and I are thinking of retiring in the next few years and moving to a retirement home for gay and lesbian seniors in Santa Rosa. It's just wonderful. It'd be a nice way to end our lives. I think my next and maybe my last film will be about this retirement center."

Walton has given us a legacy of documentaries about coming out and living as a creative, impassioned lesbian artist. If her last film is in fact about retirement, it will be a suitable finale.



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Title Annotation:our generation
Author:Kendall, Gillian
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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