Artists, Captured in Amber

“A Moment in Time,” an 82-minute documentary, will be shown at Guild Hall on July 5 at 7 p.m.
Lana Jokel captured Audrey Flack discussing her sculpture “Daphne” during her 1996 exhibition, “Daphne Speaks,” at Guild Hall.

When Lana Jokel undertakes a film project, she doesn’t so do casually. At present, she is working on a documentary on Michael Chow, best known as a restaurateur but also a serious artist who exhibited his paintings at the Warhol Museum in February and, as Ms. Jokel explained at her Bridgehampton house, a complex and multifaceted figure who has lived an extraordinary life. She has already filmed in Shanghai, Beijing, and Pittsburgh and estimates the project will take several years. “He’s now 77,” she said. “I told him I’d like to finish by the time he’s 80.”

While clearly not one to act on a whim, that is exactly what she did during the summer of 1996. “I have always shot in 16mm film, but when Max Scott, a friend, got a video camera, I said ‘Let’s experiment with it. Let’s do a series of interviews with artists I know.’ ”

The result of that experiment, “A Moment in Time,” an 82-minute documentary, will be shown at Guild Hall on July 5 at 7 p.m. and be followed by a conversation with Christina Strassfield, the director of Guild Hall’s museum, and six of the participating artists. The program is free. 

When Ms. Jokel referred to “artists I know,” she meant John Alexander, April Gornik, Eric Fischl, Donald Sultan, Audrey Flack, Sven Lukin, Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas, Robert Dash, and John Chamberlain. Her connection to the art world goes back more than four decades and includes films she has directed and/or edited about Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Mark di Suvero, Isamu Noguchi, and many others. What emerges from her work is both her knowledge of contemporary art and her rapport with her subjects.

“A Moment in Time” began as a series of informal visits to the artists’ studios, gardens, and houses. “One reason I never made it into a film before is that the quality isn’t good enough for broadcast. I also don’t like to see myself on camera. I ordinarily ask questions from off screen, but in this case you see me. So I just gave the footage to LTV for its archive and went on to other things.”

She revisited the material six months ago and saw it from a different perspective. “I titled it ‘A Moment in Time’ because that’s what it is. It gives you a glimpse of these artists, all of whom have sustained long careers, as they were 20 years ago.”

The participating artists, except for Mr. Chamberlain, who died in 2011, and Mr. Dash, who died two years later, will see the film for the first time at Guild Hall. The conversation will therefore follow directly upon their encounter with their younger selves.

Because of the informality of the conversations, the viewer is brought into closer and more intimate contact with the artists than in a typical documentary. Mr. Alexander leads a relaxed tour of his property and studio, unlit cigar in hand, Mr. Dash shows a series of paintings of penises before venturing onto the grounds of Madoo, while Mr. Sultan reflects on his work during a circuit of his house, part of which dates from 1750.

Both Ms. Gornik and Mr. Fischl stick to their studios, talking with their customary insight and clarity about the sources of their work. Mr. Chamberlain, on the other hand, doesn’t discuss his art at all, preferring dirty jokes and amusing anecdotes to self-analysis. 

In the galleries of Guild Hall, where her work was on view at the time, Ms. Flack recalls how “treacherous” it was to be a young woman among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. Ms. Strong-Cuevas leads an informative tour of a series of large steel faces, while, with dry humor, Mr. Lukin discusses his love for potatoes and points out the many artworks of his that are devoted to them.