Maas, Willard (1906–71) By Key, Laura E.B.
Willard Maas (1906–71) was an American filmmaker and poet. He was known for his experimental style of filmmaking and was considered part of an avant-garde group of artists who worked in opposition to the commercial film industry. The types of films he made were sometimes referred to as “film poems” for their unconventional style, blurring the traditional distinction between the media of film and poetry.
Maas was a literature professor by trade, working at Wagner College in New York City. Along with his wife, fellow filmmaker and artist Marie Menken, Maas was prominent in the New York art scene from the 1940s to the 1960s. Maas and Menken were founder members of the Gryphon Group, a set of like-minded artists who worked together on postwar experimental art and film projects. The couple was well-known for holding avant-garde salons at their Brooklyn apartment.
Maas and Menken’s tempestuous relationship was well recorded, and they are cited as inspiration for the characters of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).
Maas’s film credits as director include Geography of the Body (1943, with Marie Menken and George Barker), The Mechanics of Love (1955, with Ben Moore), Image in the Snow (1943–8), and Narcissus (1956, with Ben Moore).