Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
These are the facts, as 74-year-old David Huggins sees them: He encountered his first aliens at age eight. He lost his virginity to a female extraterrestrial named Crescent at age 17. He fathered a clan of hybrid alien-human babies. And these otherworldly beings have given him permission to paint it all.
Filmmaker Brad Abrahams first heard Huggins’s story while listening to a radio interview on the paranormal during a cross-country bus trip. A psychologist was discussing a wide variety of abduction experiences, but this one was “orders of magnitude weirder” than the rest, he recalls. “They were discussing reputable cases, and they used his as an example of something that was too crazy to even consider.”
David Huggins, In My Bedroom. Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
That was the seed of Love & Saucers, Abrahams’s recent documentary that explores Huggins’s otherwordly experiences and the art he’s created in response. The film offers a tender portrait of a man with a story too outlandish even for those who are used to the implausible. Abrahams gives us a front-row seat to observe Huggins in his New Jersey home, surrounded by an extensive collection of sci-fi and horror movies on VHS, working diligently on a handwritten movie script or his latest painting.
These artworks—he’s made about 150 in total—take up a considerable amount of screen time, as Huggins introduces the various aliens he’s encountered through the years (from the praying mantis-esque “insect being” to the big-eyed Greys to the little “hairy guy” with glowing eyes). The paintings are almost like film stills, Abrahams notes. “After watching so many movies, [Huggins] thinks of them cinematically,” the filmmaker says. “Maybe not even consciously, but each of the paintings is like a little scene from a movie that you can imagine playing out.”
Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
Huggins was a trained artist years before he began illustrating his extraterrestrial experiences. He grew up in Georgia, where a troubled home life spurred him to set out for New York City in his late teens. There, he studied at the Art Students League of New York and took classes in painting and drawing. His favorite artists are the Impressionists, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet; his early paintings were mostly landscapes and portraits. Then, in 1987, Huggins says the aliens suggested he make a visual record of his experiences—and he’s been painting them ever since.
Huggins is often described as an “outsider artist,” or someone who creates work beyond of the confines of the traditional art world. There’s a rich tradition of these sorts of creators documenting their alien encounters. Ionel Talpazan, for example, was a Romanian artist who sold his work on the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s. His detailed cross-sections of UFOs and depictions of life in outer space caught the eye of a dealer and, beginning in the 1990s, he showed in galleries and museums. Howard Finster, a Baptist preacher, made art obsessively and was fascinated by flying saucer lore.
David Huggins, Coming Through. Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
Outsider art is often made with little intention to show or to sell. Instead, it’s a personal passion, almost a compulsion to create. Before the documentary, Abrahams says Huggins had shown his art publicly only once or twice, including at a local beauty salon. (A pop-up solo show was organized as part of the documentary’s filming.)
This December, the art space Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA for short) hosted another solo show in conjunction with a screening of Love & Saucers. PhilaMOCA’s director and curator, Eric Bresler, described Huggins as “much more interested in creating than exhibiting.”
Bresler brought him to Philadelphia in advance of the show to handle logistics. “It was an arbitrary process in which titles were given based on the content of the painting”—Bresler mentions examples like Eight Little Guys Floating Down or Handing Me the Packaged Alien—“and pricing was determined by the size of the canvas and the degree to which he wanted to part with it.” Bresler offered to buy a horizontal close-up of Crescent’s eyes, but Huggins declined to sell it. (The director instead ended up with a painting of Crescent reclining in the woods.)
David Huggins, Her Eyes. Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
“That night he sold more art than he ever has at one time,” Bresler says. “Despite having a pocketful of cash, he told me that he was much more pleased about being able to talk to the attendees about his experiences.”
Huggins is clear that he doesn’t care if people believe his story, but he’s compellingly earnest when describing his experiences. Abrahams recalls, during the question and answer session at PhilaMOCA following a screening of Love & Saucers, that “the audience was rapt by his presence, like in awe. [Huggins was] like a guru, everyone staring with their jaws open, listening to every word he was saying.”
David Huggins, Implant. Courtesy of Love and Saucers.
For his part, Bresler said the experience struck him—though he’s not yet an actual UFO convert. “I don’t believe that humanoid-like beings from outer space have ever visited Earth,” he admits, “though the combination of David’s sincerity and the visceral impact of his paintings certainly planted at least a seed of possibility in my mind.”
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory