|image by the Plastic Club|
Philadelphia Independents II was a success, hosted once again by the Plastic Club, on Camac Street. Animators of all colors and stripes gathered together with students, Plastic Club members, and the public to view a strong body of work being created within the region.
Ahmad Ajouz's "Country Matters" was an examination of cultural differences using 3D character animation. Interviews with Lebanese immigrants to the U.S. and Americans who have traveled to the Middle East brought up topics that are perhaps even more relevant today than when the film first came out in 2006. "Beat Sphere," created for the Kimmel Center's outdoor display, was an abstract animation, also using 3D software, of visuals pulsating to music.
Geoff Beatty's work included 3D character animation from "Bullseyes Playground," an interactive game, and also some hand-made stop-motion with his "Valen-Vines 2015 Compilation.," again demonstrating the wide-ranging choice of aesthetic and medium from a single artist.
Ross Bollinger's finely-tuned comic work opened the show, provoking the audience into audible amusement. He gave us three selections: "Catson Pawlick," about an artist tormented by a cat who keeps ruining his paintings. This ends happily, as they team up together to impress the cat cognoscenti in an art gallery setting. "Do You Like My Decorations" is the tale of a perversely friendly Christmas tree, mocking the trappings of the holiday and demonstrating false good cheer, and "Uneasy Rider" is a classic example of animator abuse of a character.
Liz Goldberg and Lowell Boston presented an excerpt from the work-in-progress: "Cigar Queens of Havana: Devil's D'Opera," revealing the earthy culture of Cuban divas via Liz's trademark paintings and Lowell's compositing work. The film came about as the result of a first-time trip to Havana made by Liz, where she was able to observe the rich atmosphere of the city firsthand, especially the cigar-smoking women who exude strength, confidence, and character with unaffected aplomb.
Paul and Sandra Fierlinger presented several works, including excerpts from "Slocum At Sea with Himself," a two-hour-long work-in-progress depicting a man's nautical adventures. Paul's signature sketchy drawings and Sandra's subtle colors work together with storytelling to create a thoughtful, reflective atmosphere that demonstrates the capacity of animation to go well beyond the public's general perception of what an animated "cartoon" might be. "From Eliza," another work-in-progress, takes this even further, exploring one woman's experience of terminal cancer. Paul will also be giving a lecture at the University of the Arts on April 10th, discussing his approach to making a successful career as an independent animator. He certainly knows something about the topic, having done this for over 40 years. His focus now has shifted towards the internet as the means to make this happen.
Samantha Gurry's "Montag // There is a Voice" was an experimental music video making use of paper cutouts, mainly photographic, and objects, evoking in one audience member work from the 1960's. Samantha is a recent graduate of the University of the Arts' Animation program and is doggedly pursuing a career as an independent animator.
Plastic Club member Hannah Holby, an educator, filmmaker, actor and artist, presented short works by her students, including "Attack of the Plant Monsters," "Rain Cloud," and the more ambitious "Many, Many, Too Many Cats," which had a sound track narrated by its authors. The works were animated in paper cutout and demonstrated the refreshingly unfettered approach of children towards subject material and visual representation.
Local indie studio Juggling Wolf, represented at the screening by Jason Chen, offered several works, including ads for Anthropologie and Mizrahi Yarn, and two non-commercial efforts, "Cupcake" and "Night Moves." These shorts highlight UArts Animation alum Jason's and cohorts Ian Foster's and Marina Gvozdeva's talent for creating finely-crafted, visually inventive pieces that charm the viewer and bring them into meticulously imagined worlds. Jason is also co-director of the very successful Paradigm Gallery in South Philadelphia, and is earning a growing list of accolades and praise from city newspapers, art critics, and the public.
Greg Lytle's music video "I Wanna Play," based on a song by Bill Harley, also charmed the audience with its fluid animation, strong design, and kid-friendly atmosphere, spreading a message of tolerance. Greg is a Philadelphia native who recently moved back to the city after a long stint in New York. He specializes in both drawn and stop-motion animation.
UPenn Department of Fine Arts, Chair in the School of Design Joshua Mosley presented three works, "dread," "Jeu de Paume," and "Natura," all impressive examples of animation that has nothing to with the world of Walt Disney or Miyazaki cartoons, demonstrating the form's viability within a fine arts context. "dread" places two French philosophers, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Blaise Pascal, as 3D animated sculptures, within a Hawaiian forest setting, as they debate man's role in the context of nature. "Jeu de Paume" is a technical tour de force, combining stop-motion with computer-programmed, hand-held camera movement as two players engage in the sport of court tennis, predecessor to the modern game. "Natura" combines abstract graphics with a child's exploration of phonetics.
I (Christopher Magee) showed an excerpt from my studio Motion Heads' work-in-progress, "The Ogre & the Mermaid," a dystopic fairytale created using hand-drawn animation and digital coloring and compositing. The subject material deals with regret and the finite nature of our time as living individuals. I was happy to have my composer Daniel McGowan and background artist Ellen Marcus in the audience.
UArts Director of Animation Karl Staven presented three works, "Katerina and the Composer," "An Animator's Guide to Everglades National Park," and "An Animator's Guide to Weir Farm." The first two pieces are works-in-progress, and Karl stepped up to the microphone to provide live audio accompaniment. All three works showcase his love of stop-motion animation placed in outdoor contexts, often in nature, his highly kinetic sense of movement, penchant for quietly absurd humor, and visceral approach to sound.
Towson University professor Lynn Tomlinson's "The Ballad of Holland House" is currently making the rounds of the festival circuit, having already screened at the Cheasapeake Film Festival, Cinanima, The Athens Video Art Festival, and several others. Lynn's love of tactile media is convincingly demonstrated in this clay-on-glass work, which makes elegant use of the technique's capacity for morphing transitions and a painterly look. The audience of Plastic Club painters was appreciative of the look, feel, and musicality of her work.
The screening was followed by a lively Question and Answer session with the animators, each of whom was able to respond to a query posed by an interested and informed audience.
Thanks to all participants, and thanks to the Plastic Club, in particular Bob Lee, who co-organized this event with me, Anders Hansen, who assisted with the flyer and other elements, and Cynthia Arkin, Plastic Club president. Their warm and welcoming attitude make this event intimate, friendly, and convivial. Looking forward to more events in the future that bring animators and their audience together.