On an Italian hillside, a camera peers through the lush landscape to find two youthful lovers enjoying a stolen minute of erotic passion.

 

This imagery does not arrive in the form of a romance novel, but from a scene captured by a local filmmaker and art professor.

James Herbert, the Research Chair for the Lamar Dodd School of Art, will again be visiting Italy this coming semester to teach and to create another film in his own uncomparable style and unique vision.

Students will most likely recognize Herbert's previous work from his videos for local rock group R.E.M.

Such videos as "End of the World" and "Low" were mainstays on MTV and helped establish a film career that led to invitations to the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals for screenings of his latest feature films "Scars" and "Speedy Boys."

"I knew Michael Stipe as a student and I saw the band's evolution through the years," Herbert said. "He and R.E.M. were very generous to offer me the opportunity to do the videos and by allowing me a great deal of creative freedom.

"I'm excited by the fact that the videos had a large audience, but there was a great deal of pressure because of that. Because you think of the audience in a way you don't with your own personal work."

Herbert's concentration seems to be more focused on his latest film work, which he finances himself and panders to no audience.

 

His latest short film, "Jumbo Aqua," was well-received at its premiere at the Modern Museum of Art in New York a few weeks ago.

Much of Herbert's work, including "Jumbo Aqua," uses rephotography -- a tedious process that allows for greater manipulation of the image in which each frame is separately displayed on a projector and then "re-photographed" with a 35mm camera.

The film was a departure from his previous work that stressed a romantic sensibility over newer elements of urban edginess. These innovations contained elements of collage that added more of a subtext to the narrative.

Herbert plans on expanding on these newer elements in a feature to be shot this spring.

"I'm going to try to do something that has some kind of darkness to it, sort of Bergman meets Fellini," he said. "I'm going to try to do something that has an omniscent tone to it because I think the environment is going to be quite cold and dark, and I might play with that a little bit."

Certain audiences might be taken aback by Herbert's film work -- which often features actors or models in the nude.

But Herbert continues on the classical study of the figure that began with artists like DaVinci and Rembrandt.

"In America, where there is this sort of obsession with nudes, [it might] be compared to pornography. [But] I find that if I film people and they are nude they will have a different attitude towards addressing the camera. Those attitudes have significance to me because they seem more natural," Herbert said. "They are more expressive. Perhaps, the protection of clothing allows people to have a defensive posturing that keeps them from opening up in many ways.

"I don't want to sound like a confirmed nudist, extolling its virtues but it has worked to make a more expressive film. Even rudimentary things tend to take on a special significance. Someone cutting a peach in half-nude is quite an event compared to the more normal situation," Herbert said. James Herbert

When & Where: Nov. 3 - Dec. 30 at Nexus Contemporary Art Gallery in Atlanta. Opening reception Nov. 3 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Tickets: $3 general, $1 students

Information: Call (404) 688-1970 for directions.

This spring, the Cortona study-abroad program invites students from all backgrounds the opportunity to explore their own deviations from the norm while studying alongside the prominent filmmaker.

"Each student will be responsible for five films on Super 8mm, each film having a particular identity to it, a special quality to it -- kind of like a little song," said Herbert.

"In a short time people can learn films by getting deeply into it, even in such an innocent way as Super 8mm. There is a tremendous amount of excitement for the atmosphere in Italy (to stage a film in) -- the places, the people, the backgrounds."

An upcoming show at the Nexus Contemporary Art Gallery in Atlanta reveals the range of Herbert's work.

With the show including an eight and a half by 12 feet length

painting (painted in Herbert's studio -- a transformed Athens High School gymnasium that houses approximately 2000 of his paintings) and a collection of 32 photographs, alongside screenings of a number of his recent films and videos.

This retrospective contains a large sampling of of Herbert's work and will serve as ample research material for any interested film student or art enthusiast.

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