By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — David Lynch is one of Hollywood’s most distinctive filmmakers, and a new exhibit at his alma mater shows that his unique vision is rooted in his years as a student there, in the late ’60’s.

“I always say, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is my biggest influence,” Lynch noted today as he visited the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, at Broad and Cherry Streets.

Lynch’s movies are marked by a sense of dread, something menacing just beyond the frame.  And the exhibit, “The Unified Field,” shows that his paintings share the same quality.

So, what does it mean that Philadelphia in the sixties inspired him?

“The fear, insanity, corruption, filth, despair, violence in the air was so beautiful to me,” he said today, speaking at a preview of the exhibit, years in the planning, that includes his student work, including his first film: Six Men Getting Sick Six Times.

“I only wanted to be a painter,” Lynch recalled today.  “I only got into film by accident, in this very building, and it was projected in this room.”

Lynch doesn’t regret the change of direction but is happy to have his paintings take the spotlight.

“I get something from painting I don’t get from any other medium. I love it,” he said.