January 26, 2022
...Lorraine O'Grady Film Club: "Losing Ground" (1982) by Kathleen Collins
Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground (1982) tells the story of Sara Rogers, a philosophy professor embarking on an intellectual quest to understand “ecstasy” as she drifts further away from her painter husband. Sara seeks emotional release in her own creative practice to combat her growing discontent. Collins weaves a complex, open-ended story of personal discovery in the context of love, race, and gender.

Still from Losing Ground, Kathleen Collins, 1982
Still from Losing Ground, Kathleen Collins, 1982

Kathleen Collins (1942 - 1988) was educated at Skidmore and the Sorbonne and was an activist with SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement. Collins went on to carve out a career for herself as a playwright and filmmaker during a time when black women were rarely seen in those roles. She wrote her first screenplay in 1971, but later remembered that "nobody would give any money to a black woman to direct a film. It was probably the most discouraging time of my life.” Losing Ground is her best known work, followed by two plays, In the Midnight Hour and The Brothers. A never-before-released collection of short fiction, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, was posthumously published by Ecco Press in 2016.

Lorraine O’Grady Film Club #2:

Losing Ground, Kathleen Collins, 1982 (86 minutes)
5pm PST / 8pm EST
Click here to join the Zoom screening

Also on our mind is Lorraine O’Grady’s 1991 Dracula and the Artist photomontage. Broken-toothed combs fly forcefully at a woman with her back to us in the panel on the left, while she sits composed, studying and sketching the defeated pile, on the right. This surreal diptych suggests that the woman is reclaiming, and asserting control over, a previously dominant force through some sort of creative practice.

Lorraine O’Grady, Dracula and the Artist (diptych), 1991, photomontage
Lorraine O’Grady, Dracula and the Artist (diptych), 1991, photomontage

What connections can we make between the protagonists of Losing Ground and Dracula and the Artist?

How does personal discovery intersect with, or emerge from, creative practice?

What are the differences between study and creation?

The Lorraine O’Grady Film Club is hosted by Selam Bekele and Meghan Smith every month, on Wednesdays, from December 2021 to March 2022.