Oklahoma Contemporary
Still from Shadow Life by Cao Fei
A black and white animation of two figures walking in opposite directions against a background of hands casting shadows

New Light

June 19, 2020

#StudioinPlace Friday Films: Women Animators

Tess Elliot on five trailblazing filmmakers
A figure with long dark hair stands in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol
Tess Elliot, Studio-in-Place artist

Friday Films is back with another installment to help you connect with art through movies. So far we've covered films about music, ceramics, Black artists and more. For this week's installment, Studio-in-Place artist Tess Elliot is here with a roundup of animated works by women. She'll give you the rundown on a few of her favorite animations, produced by groundbreaking modern and contemporary women filmmakers.

Whether you've got a taste for classic animation or mind-bending digital art, you'll definitely want to check out the work of these five trailblazing artists.

Lotte Reiniger

Lotte Reiniger is one of the world’s very first indie animators. Born in Charlottenburg, Berlin in 1899, she pioneered the use of a multi-plane camera and focused her childhood passion for paper cutouts on a dazzling silhouetted animation style that can help us understand character motion and rigging today. Her film’s often retold Grimm’s fairy tales, decades before Disney. Here’s Cinderella from 1922.

Lillian Schwartz

Lillian Schwartz is a pioneer of digital animation. She was a long-term artist-in-residence at Bell Labs, a major telecommunications research facility in New Jersey innovating early computer technologies in the 1960s. Before the invention of the computer screen, and in collaboration with Ken Knowlton, the engineer who wrote the first computer languages for imaging, Schwartz would work for years on a single film, recording a frame at a time by entering punch cards into an electronic device attached to a film camera. The results were always surprising, seen for the very first time after the film was finished and processed.

You can watch her 1970 film, Pixillation — which combines abstract, painted film sequences with digitally produced ones — on the artist's Vimeo page.

Suzan Pitt

Suzan Pitt’s hand-drawn animations are vibrant, layered, slightly psychedelic works of art. Asparagus from 1979 is her most iconic film: a dreamy and deeply psychological animation exploring themes of female desire, sexuality, discretion and shame.

Cao Fei

Cao Fei is a contemporary Chinese artist working with themes of fantasy, utopia, labor and a changing Chinese cultural landscape. She makes objects, costumes, video, performance and video games. She is well-known for her Second Life videos and video-game interface series RMB City. Here’s a cinematic animated short, Shadow Life, from 2011.

Sondra Perry

Sondra Perry is a contemporary conceptual artist who incorporates 3-D animation software in her videos, which are typically immersive, existing on screens embedded in equipment /sculptures that engages viewers' bodies. Her work explores intersections of race, family history and technology. We’ll end our Friday Films suggestions with It’s in the Game from 2017.

Tess Elliot is an assistant professor of art, technology and culture at OU. She studied at the University of the Arts in Berlin in 2006 and received her BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 2008. She completed her MFA in Art and Technology at the Ohio State University in 2017. Her multidisciplinary practice involves sculpture, installation, animation, VR and small-gauge film. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, recently at the 8 Fest in Toronto, Ontario, Aggregate Space Gallery in Oakland, Calif., and the Ann Arbor Film Festival in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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