Rowan University Art Gallery

Harsh Realities

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 6th, 5 - 7 pm

Co-curated with Jenn Thwing and Joshua Mosley

This exhibition is a presentation of the artwork and art of stop motion animation in the form of clay, puppet, toys, dolls, and surface alteration that explore through theatre, humor, drama, and metaphor the resilience of the human spirit within difficult and challenging circumstances.  Some of the participating artists will exhibit the artwork that they created for the animations.


Martha Colburn/cut outs

Eric Dyer/objects/ cinetropes

Jennifer Levonian/surface alterations

Laura Heit/puppets

Allison Schulnik/clay

Christopher Sullivan/surface alterations

Stacey Steers/ surface alterations/installation

Karen Yasinsky/puppet

Mickey Please/dolls/puppet


Visiting Artists Component:

Joshua Mosley, Professor of Animation, and Department Chair, University of Pennsylvania will lecture on the History of Animation, Thursday, September 13th.  5:00 pm, Bozorth Hall Theatre

Chris Sullivan will present a theatrical screening of a feature length animation recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, "Consuming Spirits," Thursday, September 20, 5:00 pm, Bozorth Hall Theatre

Chris Sullivan will conduct a class workshop for film and animation students, Thursday, September 27th, 4:45 pm

Jennifer Levonian, will premier a new animation made exclusively for Rowan Gallery




Chris Sullivan is a Professor, Animation; Film, Video, New Media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Whitney Biennial, NY; Boston Art Museum, MA; Flaherty Film Seminar, NY; Black Maria 20th Anniversary Show, MOMA, NY.  His films have been in festivals throughout the United States including: "Short Film Expo," Ottawa, Zagreb, New York; "Animation Celebration," Los Angeles; "Black Maria," Ann Arbor.  Chris is also a performance artists and has created work at the Walker Art Center, MN; Franklin Furnace, NY; LACE, CA; Randolph Street, Chicago. Bibliography: Unsung Heroes of Animation.  He is the recipient of several awards including  the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship; Bush Foundation Fellowship;  Illinois Arts Council; NEA Regional fellowships.

Links for the film "Consuming Spirits",73446/


Martha Colburn is a filmmaker and multimedia artist. Born in Pennsylvania, she now lives and works between Holland and New York City. Although Ms. Colburn's style is unmistakably her own, the scope of her work is broad and difficult to encapsulate; her expertise (especially in stop-motion animation) have led to teaching, speaking, and lectures at film forums and universities worldwide.


A 1994 BFA graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Colburn also studied for two years at Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, earning an MFA equivalent in 2002. Ms. Colburn received her first awards: the Kenneth Patchen Award at the National Poetry Film Festival, and the Jury's Choice Award at the Super Super-8 Film Festival; the following year, she won the Jury's Choice Award for No-Budget Filmmaking at the International Hamburg Short Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. In 1999, she received the honor of Best Animated Film at in both New York and Chicago Underground Film Festivals. In 2002, she won two awards—the Sarah Lawrence College Film Award, and Best Animated Film at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Presenting in both solo and group exhibitions (and receiving an award in 2003 for Best Animated Film at the New York Underground Film Festival), Ms. Colburn also resumed teaching, as a visiting artist/lecturer (Statens Kunstakademi in Oslo, Norway), a workshop host (Nanjing Art Institute in Nanjing, China), or a tutor (Dutch Art Institute in Enschede, the Netherlands). Ms. Colburn provided animation for the feature film The Devil and Daniel Johnson, which won the award of Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Particularly notable was the induction of Ms. Colburn's highly topical Cosmetic Emergency to the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.


As a participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council art residency program, in 2005, she began collaborating with musicians in what would become an integral part of her presentation: live accompaniment to her films. These live sound/ musical and film explorations resulted in performances at Museum of Art & Design, The Knitting Factory, Rotterdam Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, artists space and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2008-2010 she created commissions from Creative Time (for the Times Square video screen), Performa ( NY performance art festival) for which she made the futurist themed film 'One & One is Life', Electric Literature for a film by the author Diana Wagman, and music video for Serj Tankian, Deerhoof, Friendly Rich and They Might Be Giants.


In 2010 her film Triumph of the Wild was included in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Website Link for film samples:


Eric Dyer is an artist, filmmaker, experimental animator, and educator. His award-winning films have screened internationally at numerous festivals, including the Chicago International Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, South by Southwest, and the Ottawa, Annecy, Melbourne, and London International Animation Festivals. His work has also been exhibited at the Exploratorium, the Hirshhorn, the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art, Ars Electronica, and the Cairo and Venice Biennales. He received his MFA in 2004 from the Mount Royal School of Art at MICA, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in filmmaking for travel to Denmark in 2005, and was a New Frontier Artist at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. As a member of the Visual Arts faculty at UMBC in Baltimore, he teaches animation and brings students and symphony orchestras together to create music visualizations and animation performances. In 2008 his students presented with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He has taught workshops at institutions such as Connecticut College and CalArts. Dyer has received Animasivo, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Ammerman Center for Art and Technology commissions and is currently an Imaging Research Center Summer Research Fellow, Creative Capital Artist, and Guggenheim Fellow.


His film featured in the exhibition "The Bellows March" utilized the zoetrope, a pre-cinema optical toy, to create and explore a visual language of loops and spirals. When spun, the complex circular sculptures, dubbed cinetropes, are a blur to the human eye but come to full animated life when viewed through shutter glasses or the lens of a fast-shutter video camera. "The Bellows March" runs anthropomorphized concertinas through a cycle of destroy-create-destroy, and bridges digital and physical animation processes via 3-D printed, hand-painted cinetropes.


The cintropes used in the film will be included in the exhibition


Vimeo link to the film:





Laura Heit has a MA in animation from the Royal College of Art in London and a BFA in film from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her award-winning experimental animation and puppet films have been screened extensively in the US and abroad (including Rotterdam, Annecy, Hong Kong International Film Festival, London International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Walker Art Center, Guggenheim) Her film "Look for Me" was commissioned by Channel 4 Television and the British Council. She is an animation director at Slinky Pictures (UK), and Duck Studios (LA). Besides her work in animation Laura also works in puppet theater, she has been a member of Redmoon Theater (Master builder/designer/artistic associate 1996-2001), Theater Dank, and En Fuego. The Matchbox Shows, her solo cabaret in which tiny stories unfold within matchboxes, have toured all over the world.


Website Link for films samples:


Jennifer Levonian creates cut-paper animations that explore the ambivalence of everyday life by focusing on things that go unnoticed and transforming them into bizarre and uncanny events. Her work has been screened and exhibited nationally, including at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Sarah Lawrence College, New York; Exit Art, New York; and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Colombus, OH; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Sante Fe Art Institute, New Mexico. Levonian has been a resident at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Millay Colony for the Arts. The artist received her BA from The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. In 2009, she was awarded the Pew Fellowship in the Arts.


Website link and film samples:



Mickey Please describes himself this way "I am a reckless man. I am a powerful being. I take the raw material of the universe and bend it to my will. I make little puppet animations. I make them to not look like the things that they actually are. I hope that an onlooker might ask themselves – what is that? I like to leave imperfections, clues in each image that tell part of the story of how the image came to be. And in understanding the process, I hope that the onlooker will appreciate and enjoy the film that little bit more."


Following a BA in Special Effects at UAL, where Mikey produced several technically experimental animated short films, he went on to direct animation commissions

for clients such as Virgin, Transgressive Records, Rough Trade, Ninja Tune and Universal

Records before honing his skills with an MA in Direction for Animation at the Royal College

of Art in 2010. His latest film The Eagleman Stag made it's international premiere at this years Sundance Film Festival, going on to win the 2011 BAFTA for short animation, awards at South by Southwest, Clermont Ferrand, the LA Film Festival and the Royal Television

Society Post-Graduate Animation Award amongst others. He is now represented by Passion

Pictures in the UK and Hornet Inc in the USA for his commercial broadcast work and is

developing other long form projects with Warp Films and Film 4 for 2012.


His recent release "Eagleman Stag" will be presented in the exhibition.


Stacey Steers makes labor-intensive films composed of thousands of individual, handmade works on paper. Her animations have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, New Directors New Films in NYC and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., along with numerous other screenings worldwide, winning national and international awards. Recently she has begun expanding her work to include installations that reflect on and bring focus to the films by placing production elements and/or film loops in a new context. Her work has been installed at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Denver Art Museum, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany among others. Steers is a recipient of major grants from Creative Capital and the American Film Institute. She has been an artist fellow at Harvard University, the MacDowell Colony, the Sacatar Foundation, Ucross Foundation, the Liguria Study Center and Yaddo. She lives and works in Boulder, Colorado.


In this handmade film, composed of more than four thousand collages, the actress Lillian Gish is seamlessly appropriated from silent-era cinema and plunged into a new and haunting role. Night Hunter evokes a disquieting dreamscape, drawn from allegory, myth, and archetype. Music and sound by Larry Polansky.


Web link and film samples:


Allison Schulnik choreographs her subjects in compositions that embody a spirit of the macabre, a Shakespearian comedy/tragedy of love, death and farce. The subjects often stare back at the audience and study them as they are in turn studied, aware of their ancestors from the Grand Theme works of the past, the genre paintings that inform them. Although a haunting sense of foreboding, discomfort and unease is palpable, a sense of understanding, compassion and hopefulness for her cast of characters is still evident in the heavy impasto paintings. Her sculptural use of oil paint references her clay-animation background, as a motion-like sensibility affords her paintings unparalleled depth and energy. Born in 1978 (San Diego, CA), Schulnik earned her BFA in Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia (CA). She has had significant solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Rome and London, and has exhibited in both visual arts shows and film screenings around the world. Her work can be seen in the public collections of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (KS), Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (CA), The Chaney Family Collection (TX), Museé de Beaux Arts (Montreal) and the Laguna Art Museum (CA). The artist lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.


Weblink and films:

Karen Yasinsky explores issues of manipulation, compassion, and desire in a style that ventures into surreal abstraction without confusing the delicacy and serenity of her compositions. With an interest in memory, the reconstruction of narrative and recreation of character, Yasinsky uses Robert Bresson's 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar as a starting point for the works in this series.Yasinsky's process operates in tandem with Bressson's film: instead of actors, Bresson used 'models', people with no acting experience, rehearsed to remove personal emotions from their lines. Similarly, in Yasinsky 's stop-motion puppet animation, I Choose Darkness (2008-2009, 9 min.) - screened at MoMA in 2008 - the dolls contribute no interpretation of their own. Instead, expressiveness is found in raw imagery and sound, serving as residual, emotional documents, stripped from the film and imbued with the artist's own visual and metaphorical associations. Characters from the movie, including Balthazar, the abused and soulful donkey and Marie, the sexual and conflicted protagonist, exist as a series of motions without resolution, nor a chance for redemption.


The drawings in I Choose Darkness are executed in various media and techniques, allowing Yasinsky to experiment with materials, further extracting and eclipsing the original film stills. In this group of candy-colored drawings, an intricate and hermetic world is created, indicative of Yasinsky's deep commitment to the evolution of her subject.


Yasinsky holds an MFA in painting from Yale University's School of Art. Works related to L'Atalante were recently exhibited at The Baltimore Museum of Art, at The Sculpture Center in Long Island City and in a solo installation at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. In 2002, the UCLA Hammer Museum presented a solo exhibition of Yasinsky's Still Life with Cows.


Video link: