Peyote Queen is an experimental short film by Storm de Hirsch, produced in 1965.
Peyote Queen is the second and best known part of de Hirsch’s trilogy, The Color of Ritual, the Color of Thought. It is preceded by Divinations (1964) and Shaman (1966). The film’s imagery is abstract, consisting of both live action footage and animated sequences which de Hirsch created by painting and etching directly on the 16mm film stock. Split screens, kaleidoscopic lenses, and abstract animations are used to create a psychedelic effect. De Hirsch had a background in painting (she published an interview of the abstract expressionist painter, Willem de Kooning, in 1955), and her films of this period have been described as “painterly.” The soundtrack consists of African drumming and singing interspersed with American pop music.
Storm de Hirsch (1912 – 2000) was an American poet and filmmaker. She was a key figure in the New York avant-garde film scene of the 1960s, and one of the founding members of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative. Although often overlooked by historians, in recent years she has been recognized as a pioneer of underground cinema.
Born Lillian Malkin in New Jersey in 1912, Storm de Hirsch left home at an early age to pursue a career in the arts in New York City. There she married her first husband, an artist named de Hirsch. She later married Louis Brigante, a filmmaker and one of the early editors of Film Culture magazine; the marriage lasted until Brigante’s death in 1975.
Like many experimental filmmakers at the time, de Hirsch did not begin her artistic career as a filmmaker; she was a poet who had published at least two collections by 1965. She turned to filmmaking because she wanted to find a new mode of expression for her thoughts that went beyond words on the page. In 1962 she made her first film and soon became active in the New York underground film movement, associating with filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke and others.
In addition to making films, de Hirsch taught at various institutions, including Bard College and New York’s School of Visual Arts. After her husband’s death she was forced to give up her studio, and stopped making films. She died in a Manhattan nursing home in 2000, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.