What projects are you currently working on?
"I Choose Darkness," 2009, stop-motion puppet animation, 8.5 minutes
I just finished a drawing animation based on a scene from Robert Bresson's film "Au Hasard Balthazar." It is a close-up profile of the character Marie speaking. She looks sad and earnest. Or rather blank. I rotoscoped it which involved saving the scene as a series of jpegs, 30 images per second and then drawing each image using a light box. There are several interruptions to her speaking when the image changes. It moves down and off the page then comes back from the top; it becomes an image made of small squares then changes colors; and finally the squares show the negative images. There are also series when every other image is a different color, moving through the spectrum, with the original black line on white in between. This creates a strobing effect. The sound, by Snacks (Tom Boram and Dan Breen) uses a piece by Brahms, static sounds; tremolo and other sounds to match these interruptions. Brahms plays while she calmly speaks but only partial sounds come out of her mouth. She doesn't communicate. My goal was to make something sweet, sincere and aggressive. I wanted the formal manipulations to work on the viewer in a physical way while the actual image spoke to the viewer in an emotional way. This is the first time I really put this into words, so, it's all a little green. Next I will begin a puppet animation with a character based on Elliott Gould from "California Split" by Robert Altman. But this character will be subject to my own version of Godardian influence.
Can you discuss the process of creating your work; is it a multi step process? Do you work in a studio?
First I have the idea and I don't really know what I will do with it until I start working. Animation is such a slow process that it allows for much rumination while in the process. With the puppet animation, I create the models, their clothing and simple sets. While doing this I am figuring out their personalities and what will begin the animation. This will involve gestures and maybe just one interaction. Then, when I'm animating, I can think of many outcomes to the scene I am working on. I can become the characters, get into their little heads and make decisions for them. I suppose it's like fiction writing. My studio is a room in my house that is totally private. I can work at any time which really suits me. I don't like to leave home to work.
"Marie," 2009, drawing animation, 3.5 minutes looped
How much research goes into your work and what form does the research take, (reading stories, looking at animation, looking at images, going to the library?)
For the past few years, my animations have been based on films I love which do something in my memory which makes me want to work with the characters and something that was very powerful in my reading of the film. So I will watch that film a lot, listen to it and collect stills from it. For my Elliott Gould character, I'm not so interested in the story told in the film but in his gestures and physical performance. I don't look at animation for my own work but the sound work in old cartoons is useful. Robert Breer's work inspired one drawing animation I did, but my pacing is so slow that it was my animation with Breerian hiccups. I read a lot of stories and novels and images and ideas from them find their way into my work but it's not purposeful research.
Do you collect source material? If so, what?
Film stills, old wallpaper and fabric patterns for drawings.
What inspires you?
Humans as seen through film and literature. Their gestures, oddities and the difficulty and self-consciousness of being human. Film language is a great inspiration and sounds-how they can manipulate an image. How a scene is framed; the movement and rhythm within the frame and within the sequence; light and color. I'm very interested in what we see and how we perceive at 24 frames per second-film time.
Do you have a daily ritual that gets you ready to go and do your work?
I have a 5-year-old son that makes me appreciate every free minute I have for my work.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not creating art?
I swim, read and cook.
How do you work through artist's block?
Since the animation process is so slow, I don't have any blocks. While I'm finishing an animation I already know what I want to do next. Often I will work on drawings at the same time so it's great to have a few things going on at the same time. There's also my 5 year old. He keeps me in the present tense, which is a great way to work and live.
How do you juggle exhibition scheduling, applying for grants, making new work, and typical life responsibilities- doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc.....
At times I don't sleep much. When I have a deadline for my work I will work nights when I have the longest stretch of uninterrupted time. I also don't often answer the phone and just prioritize. I don't apply for enough grants and regarding exhibitions, I just hope they keep materializing. I do need to make time to create a website. But stuff like this and cleaning fall by the wayside. I would always rather draw.
What artists or other people have inspired you along the way?
Bruce Nauman is huge. His work really cuts to the psychological discomfort of aspects of being human. But it hits you often in a sensory way so you have to translate the physical feeling. I saw a Bruce McClure show recently that floored me. It was aggressive and mesmerizing but filled me with joy. There was no emotional content so that was left to the viewer. My favorite filmmakers who inspire me are Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson and David Lynch. Many of the great silent films inspire me. Silent Light by Carlos Reygadas was a recent strong buzzing light in my brain as were the stories of Robert Walser.
What words or philosophy do you live by?
I am a pleasure seeker and I take pleasure in my work and family-so I feel incredibly lucky. I feel like we humans are all tiny dots in the huge scheme of things and in this realization, there is freedom and beauty. I also like to think about the definition of beauty since it's important to me.
Karen Yasinsky lives and works in Baltimore, MD. Karen is an internationally exhibited artist working in film, animation, puppetry and drawing. She received her MFA from Yale University in Painting, and studied at the NY Studio School.
For more information and to see more of her work, visit Mireille Mosler Ltd. or the Baker Artist Awards.