Remembering Harry Smith on the Anniversary of His Death

The Harry Smith Archives marked the passing of its namesake:
“Today marks 31 years since Harry’s passing. His friend, poet Paola Igliori, described him as dying in her arms, “singing as he drifted away”. Smith was pronounced dead one hour later at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
“Following Smith’s death, his branch of the occult organization O.T.O. performed a Gnostic Mass in his honor at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village. Smith’s ashes were placed in the care of his friend, longtime participant in New York’s Beat scene, Rosemarie “Rosebud” Feliu-Pettet, whom Paola Igliori has described as Smith’s “spiritual wife.” (a friend of mine once claimed that at a party held in Harry’s memory, a stew was served that Rosebud told him contained some of Smith’s ashes; PS Rosebud was mother to Harley Flannagan of the NYC punk bands Stimulators and Cro-Mags).

MIT Press has now published its revised And expanded edition of Harry Smith: American Magus, edited by Paola Igliori. This book collects the recollections of this polymath avant-film pioneer, abstract painter par excellence and occultist (who was consecrated an EGC Bishop by the OHO himself) by a fascinating array of people (most of whom also appear in Equinox III: 10… hmmmm!) The posted description says

“Best known during his lifetime as an experimental filmmaker and Folkways Records music anthologist, Harry Smith (1923–1991) was a spiritual outsider and one of the most original, influential artists of the mid-century American avant-garde. An avid, inspired collector of old blues and hillbilly recordings during his youth, he became a fan of such bebop jazz as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and began making avant-garde film animations featuring patterns painted directly onto the negatives as visual accompaniments to jazz performances. Smith crossed paths with nearly everyone central to the cultural avant-garde; he lived for art and gnosis with little thought for practical consequences. In 1991, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards in New York.

“Five years after Smith’s death, the poet Paola Igliori began conducting intimate interviews with the filmmakers, musicians, poets, and artists who knew him best. The result, American Magus Harry Smith, offers a privileged look not only into Smith’s life and artistic practice, but also into his era and the informal economy of influence that operated during that time. It provides invaluable insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century’s most enigmatic polymaths. This expanded edition includes photos of Smith and many other color images.”

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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