David Lynch - Biography
David Lynch grew up as a Presbyterian. David Lynch spent his childhood throughout the Pacific Northwest and Durham, North Carolina depending on where his father's job as a research scientist for the Department of Agriculture took him. His mother was an English tutor whose parents immigrated to the United States from Finland in the 19th century. David Lynch attained the rank of Eagle Scout and, as a teenager served as an usher at John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration. David Lynch took courses at The Corcoran School of Art during his high school career at Francis C. Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for one year (where he was a roommate of Peter Wolf) before leaving for Europe with childhood friend and contemporary artist Jack Fisk. In 1966 he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA).
While enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) he created the visual work, Industrial Symphonies. During this time David Lynch created his first short film Six Men Getting Sick (1966) which played as a loop at an art exhibit. This film won the Academy's annual film contest leading to a commission with H. Barton Wasserman. The commission resulted in the creation of The Alphabet in 1968. The Alphabet is a dark short film featuring a young girl tormented by the incessant ringing of the alphabet. This film was inspired by a nightmare in which his niece stood up in her bead and began reciting the alphabet. In 1970 The American Film Institute awarded a grant to Lynch to produce The Grandmother, a short film about a neglected boy who grows a grandmother from a seed.
In 1977 Lynch moved to L.A. to study for his MFA at the AFI Conservatory. With $10,000 in grant money from the AFI he began work on his feature debut film Eraserhead (1977), a nightmarish meditation on family life. The $10,000 did not cover the production costs and Lynch restored to gathering funds from friends and even took on a paper route. This disturbing film set the tone for Lynch's career and brought him to the attention of producer Mel Brooks who hired him to direct The Elephant Man (1982). Elephant Man was Lynch's first commercial success earning eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Lynch's feature film Blue Velvet (1986), cemented his critical success. The film is a dark story of college student (Kyle MacLachlan) who discovers the dark side of his idealic American hometown after finding a severed ear in a field. The film featured performances from Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper. The film earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. The film has drawn controversy since its opening. For this film Lynch began his collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti, who would contribute to all of his future full-length films except Inland Empire (2006).
The end of the 80's were a period where Lynch made the transition from big screen to television. His first television production was The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1989) produced for French television. With producer Mark Frost, Lynch created Twin Peaks (1990), a television drama series which takes place in a small town in Washington. Popular high school student Laura Palmer's rape and murder causes FBI agent Dale cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) to investigate the town where he reveals the many layers of secrets and supernatural events surrounding the crime. Twin Peaks was a cultural phenomenon and led to Lynch appearing on the cover of Time Magazine.
Lynch could not stay away from feature films and in 1997 released the film Lost Highway co-written by Barry Gifford, starring Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette. Despite the film's limited commercial success and mixed critical reviews it brought Lynch to a new generation of fans. His next feature film Muholland Drive (1999) performed better at ticket counters and was acclaimed by critics. For the film Lynch won Best Director at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and a Best Director award from the New York Film Critics Association. The film's non-linear structure weaves together a surrealist tale of the dark underbelly of Hollywood, starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux. Inland Empire (2006) continued the theme of non-linear narrative structures. It starred Lynch regulars Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, and Justin Theroux, with cameos by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring (voices of Suzie and Jane Rabbit), and a performance by Jeremy Irons.
Lynch is not only a film director, his artistic work crosses the field to include photography, soundscapes, sculpture and multimedia works. The internet provided a new medium with which Lynch found material for his artistic creations. In 2002 he launched Davidlynch.com. Dumbland, a series of short films, was released via his website. The disturbing shorts were later released as an eight episode DVD. From his website he also released Rabbits a sitcom about a family of humanoid rabbits. In 2007, the Foundation Cartier in Paris hosted an exhibition of Lynch's artwork spanning more than 40 years.
David Lynch's unique vision is influenced by a traumatic understanding of Francis Bacon that has impacted him since the early 1960's. Surrealism also shapes Lynch's distorted perspective in which as he says in an interview with Air France Magazine, "I put as much energy into distortion and twists as I do in actually creating, in the strictest sense of the term" (2007). Growing up in the 1950's provided the foundation to his unique cinematic vision. As Lynch says in a commonly used quote about America in the fifties, "All the problems were there, but it was somehow glossed over. And then the gloss broke, or rotted, and it all came oozing out. I grew up in Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there's this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath."
Lynch has been engaged with Transcendental meditation since 1973. The David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and Peace was created in 2005, providing scholarships for middle and high school students interested in studying Transcendental meditation. His book Catching The Big Fish (2006) discusses the relationship between Transcendental meditation and Lynch's creative process. In 2009 Lynch began working on a documentary on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (January 12, 1914 - February 5, 2008). Lynch tells Dave Metz in a Vogue interview, "See, I love ideas, and ideas are thoughts, right? So the source of all thought is the unified field, the absolute. It´s pure consciousness. And the whole process of these thoughts rising out is the principle of TM" (2003). Lynch stresses that Transcendental Mediation is not a religion, but rather a practice. Practice or religion, if Transcendental Mediation is key to the genius of Lynch then the world can only hope he is meditating right now.