Born in Rochester, NY in 1954, Leighton Pierce studied ceramics and music composition before beginning his career as a filmmaker in 1980 with the short rhythmic piece He Likes to Chop Down Trees. Working in the assorted realms of film, video, sound and installation, Pierce’s creative techniques consist of impressionistic and hypnotic nuances intertwined with intricate and mesmerizing sound design. Often weaving narrative, documentary and experimental filmmaking methods, Pierce explains his artistic purpose as “composing an experience for the audience.”
Pierce’s first feature film 50 Feet of String (1995), an abstract, cadenced construction of domestic space, gained recognition and awards at festivals around the world, including the Ann Arbor Film Festival in Michigan, the Oberhausen Short Film Festival in Germany, and the Impakt Film Festival in the Netherlands. His 2009 installation work Agency of Time—exhibited at the Sundance Film Festival—consisted of a multichannel video and sound installation evoking the overlapping themes of time, memory and desire. Throughout his years as a multidisciplinary artist, Pierce’s works have been presented at renowned institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as Paris’ Cinémathèque Française.
In addition to his work as an artist, Pierce has also worked in academia as Head of the Film and Video Production Program of the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa; Chair of Pratt Institute’s Film/Video Department; and Dean of the School of Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts, among other positions.
About the Collection
The Harvard Film Archive’s Leighton Pierce Collection consists of the prints and printing elements for sixteen films, including He Likes to Chop Down Trees (1980), Red Swing (1986), 50 Feet of String (1995) and Glass (2000).
A list of items in this collection can be found in the Harvard Library catalog.