Circle of Friends


Published December 10, 2008


New York artist/fashion designer Lily Ludlow and artist/filmmaker Allen Cordell are putting some of their favorite girlfriends on display in “Sowing Circle,” a video projection that opens at CANADA this Friday. The film, which the duo shot, directed, and edited over the course of a year, explores the homes (and psyches) of nine of New York’s most fascinating female artists-the likes of which include Chloe Sevigny, Agathe Snow, and Rita Ackerman. In an ethereal contemplation of the relationship between home and self, the projection alternates scenes of the women in their domestic environments with a slow pan of them enjoying a meal and sharing a secret around a Last Supper-style dinner table. Ludlow will exhibit a series of paintings-provided that she finishes them in time.


Lucy Madison: What was the inspiration for Sowing Circle?

Lily Ludlow: I was just sort of sitting at home and thinking. I had recently gone to a shindig in the city-this very exclusive, elaborate party-and while I was sitting there, I was thinking about cleaning my house. Then, I was talking to a friend of mine who was in from out of town, and who was really relishing the thought of going home to do her laundry. It was someone who’s really glamorous, and that would be the last thing that you would think that she was thinking about. So it sort of came up like that: Sometimes you’re at home and you want to be someplace else, and then you’re someplace else and you want to be home. I am interested in the duality of that.

LM: It sounds like such an intimate film: all of these people who are friends, sharing a meal, and then at home, doing these very personal activities.

LL: I liked the idea of filming these women at home, just being themselves. There’s not a lot of makeup, or any kind of preparation in that way. That’s when they’re at their most beautiful. The lighting was all-natural, and they’re all extraordinary-looking women. And with some of the people featured, you don’t really see that side of them very often. Like Chloe [Sevigny] at home. Or Rita [Ackerman].

LM: Did anything surprise you when you entered your subjects’ homes? I feel like going into someone’s house is so revealing.

LL: Everyone’s home was exactly as I envisioned it. The two that I hadn’t previously been in were both-you know, they’re women who are artists, and I knew they lived in lofts, and I live in a loft too-they were sprawling nests of stuff. Giant piles of everything you collect when you have space, and lots of good books. I mostly got lists of books from those places that I hadn’t been inside. The women all have very interesting homes.

LM: You’re both a fine artist and a fashion designer. How does your work in other mediums influence your filmmaking?

LL: I like to study the movement of things. If I draw, I like the way a line curves; if I’m making a piece of clothing, it’s about the way it will drape or move. With film, I like getting things so that you see the texture. In the frame of the camera, the lines are curved-so when it’s really close on a woman’s face, I feel like I’m almost drawing her.

LM: What was important to you about the concept of the communal meal?

LL: It’s sort of a collective meeting of the minds. And, you know, a lot of things happen around a dinner table. When they’re all gathered there it just seems sort of Pagan ritual to me: All these sort of witchy ladies sitting around and drinking wine.

LM: What are you doing to prepare for the opening?

LL: I’ve been up trying to get the last little bit of the footage edited, and I’m trying to get some paintings together. About four days ago I decided to start a really, really big canvas for the show. [Laughs] Which I think was a little bit crazy … Now it’s halfway done. You know when you’ve gone too far to quit but are still really far from being done? And then there’s the kind of sick feeling you get, where you think that you should have just made a couple of smaller paintings instead. But there’s really no way to stop yourself from that sort of madness.