Since the end of the 20th century, the definition of animation has shifted from referring to the hand-drawn cels seen in The Little Mermaid to computer animated graphics produced by studios like Pixar. As a result, the world of animation has become largely homogenized and has lost the majority of its charm. There is, however, a handful of artists and animators who stray from the CGI path to create something that harkens back to animation’s celluloid past while presenting work that is defiant, bold and courageously innovative. Brent Green is one such animator.
Green’s animations have a distinct immediacy that comes as a result of the techniques he employs in his work. While watching his animations, the viewer can note his attention to detail: in some shots, the backgrounds are hand painted or hand drawn, and the figures in the scenes are featured in clearly distinguished cels attached to the scene by a piece of tape. These features give his work varying layers of depth and texture, which interact freely with each other. At a time when the artist’s hand is so frequently effaced and forgotten, details such as the visible piece of tape also serve as an important reminder.
In fact, Green plays several roles in his work He writes, directs and narrates his animations. He also handcrafts his figures, uses found objects as props and creates the backdrops for his works. His subject matter is drawn from his life, but the biographical nature of his work does not give off the impression of excessive self-indulgence. Every detail of his animations is sensitively and carefully composed. This makes it possible for his material to be simultaneously intimate and transcendent. The fact that Green is self-taught is a testament to his originality and strength as an artist.
The visual complexity of Green’s animations makes it easy to overlook their narration and soundtrack. Like Green’s animation, they are deceptive in their simplicity but in fact are richly textured. Green’s voice can be likened to a combination of Conor Oberst’s (of Bright Eyes) and Giovanni Ribisi’s but is far more haunting, soulful and spirited. Green’s words are poetic and possess a natural cadence and could stand independently from the animation as a separate artistic creation. The musical soundtrack to the films is much the same. It is possible to imagine that when seen live, with the narration and soundtrack performed by Green and other musicians, that the visual and auditory power of Green’s animations converge into a balanced, unified, and harmonious experience. Green’s work represents the convergence of multiple artistic genres, styles and skills that redefines the animator as a renaissance man.
Catch Brent’s animations on Saturday, Sept. 27th at 7:15 at Cornell Cinema in Willard Straight. Green will be narrating his films live and performing the soundtrack to the animations with musicians Brendan Canty from Fugazi, Jim Becker from Califone, Alan Scalpone from The Bitter Tears and Rodney McLaughlin. For ticket information and more about Brent Green, log on to cinema.cornell.edu.