The Animated Films of Karen Aqua

Posted by on Oct 12, 2011 in Feature Articles | One Comment

ASIFA-East paid tribute last night to animation great Karen Aqua, who passed away this past May.

ASIFA-East Board Member Deb Solomon coordinated the event and the films were introduced by Karen’s husband, Ken Field, PBS’s Linda Simensky, and Oscar winner Frank Mouris – like everyone in the audience, all fans of Aqua’s work.

Karen’s films are so unique that they are hard to classify but are inherently accessible.  She is bold and committed (Frank calls her “brave”) in her “story” choices, her colours, lines, and shapes, the sound elements, and in her confidence in the viewer’s willingness to come along down the non-linear path and enjoy the ride.  Linda claims that Karen’s films are “easy on her mind,” perhaps a rare statement for a library that would most likely be found in the “experimental” section.  Thirty seconds into  Vis-á-Vis I knew exactly what she meant.

Karen was a gifted “anim-morpher,” and according to Ken, segments tapping this skill were her favourite to animate.  It’s in those moments, and in her animated dancing sequences, where the lighter and sunnier side of her is apparent.  Taxonomyis a great example of her morphing talents and “Perpetual Motion and “Kakania” of her animated dancing if you’re lucky enough to catch a screening of them.

In “Twist of Fate” Karen confronts her body, her cancer, and her destiny.  Last night was not the first time I had seen this film but in the context of her body of work (although not her complete repertoire), watching it was a profoundly different experience.  It is a beautifully animated, transparent challenge of routine, trial, hope, despair, and solitude, echoed by Ken’s hauntingly complex sound design.

Deb reserved space at “The Globe” just west of the Amphitheatre where people nourished themselves afterward with food, drink, and discussion.  Richard O’Connor, Liesje Kraai, Morgan Miller, Candy Kugel, Linda Simensky, Deb Solomon, George Griffin, Ken Field, Jane Ann Dill, Bob Lyons, Dayna Gonzalez, Pilar Newton, Caresse Singh, Rob Yulfo, Emmett Goodman, Tristian Goik, and David Levy, were just a few socializing amongst a respectable portion of our ASIFA-East community.

It was a very nice evening night all around.  Thanks to Ken for providing the screening, Lisa Crafts for the wonderful slideshow of pictures of Karen, Linda and Frank for their gracious introductions and discussion, and Deb Solomon for coordinating!

If you missed last night’s screening, the complete program list is below.  I’ve linked to information about the films only; the films are not online.  A compilation of Karen’s films is currently in the making.  Keep an eye out on the ASIFA-East blog for the release date!

ASIFA-East Member Richard O’Connor from Ace & Son wrote a terrific post that really captures the mood of the evening.  Be sure to take a look.

Photos from the evening:






Ken Field






Frank Mouris

Linda Simensky


Heavenly Bodies

Yours for the Taking

Ground Zero/Sacred Ground



Perpetual Motion


Twist of Fate


Sesame Street:  Imagination

Sesame Street:  Family Dance

Sesame Street:  Ten Dancing Kids

Slide Show (Lisa Crafts)

1 Comment

  1. Judith Anne Sprague
    October 14, 2011

    I am sorry to have been unable to attend this event, but reading this places Karen’s imagery and movements in my mind firmly again, and I appreciate that. Her work will, I think, prove immune to time.