Suzan Pitt, Wildly Inventive Animation Filmmaker, Dies at 75
Suzan Pitt, who created phantasmagorical worlds in wildly creative animated movies that handled miracles, mortality, despair and girls’s sexuality, died on Sunday at her house in Taos, N.M. She was 75.
The trigger was pancreatic most cancers, mentioned her daughter-in-law, Laura Kraning.
In a various group of experimental brief movies like “Asparagus,” “Joy Street” and “El Doctor,” Ms. Pitt pursued an idiosyncratic imaginative and prescient influenced by Surrealist artists like Leonora Carrington, the pioneering animator Max Fleischer’s cartoons (notably with Betty Boop), underground comics and, most of all, her inside world.
“She put her undiluted, unadulterated, uncensored desires on the display,” John Canemaker, an Academy Award-winning animator, mentioned in a cellphone interview.
In “Asparagus,” a hypnotic 1979 movie, Ms. Pitt created a wordless, erotic and jarring visible poem a couple of faceless lady. While exploring the inventive course of, the character enters a theater, the place she opens a suitcase and unleashes a hodgepodge of things — a lamp, a chair, balloons and bugs — that waft above a fascinated viewers of animated clay figures.
“I needed the movie to reflect the best way we daydream,” Ms. Pitt mentioned on her web site, with “every picture resulting in the following, the thoughts unfolding, consistently giving delivery.”
Janie Geiser, an experimental filmmaker and efficiency artist, remembered first watching “Asparagus” on the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, the place it was proven together with the movie she had come to see, David Lynch’s surreal “Eraserhead” (1977). Seeing “Asparagus,” she mentioned, helped steer her towards animation.
“The luxurious coloration, the sense of remark, the sensuality and the small print in every painted body have been like nothing I had ever seen,” Ms. Geiser mentioned by e-mail. “The movie was like a fever dream; and like a fever, it was contagious.”
A nonetheless from Ms. Pitt’s “Joy Street,” which depicted a depressed lady’s entry right into a fantastical jungle-like world of coloration and life.Credit scoreSuzan Pitt
Ms. Pitt’s animation was achieved with out a pc; every body was hand-painted and drawn, and 12 completely different pictures have been required for each second of movie. Each undertaking required years of planning, storyboarding and experimentation, helped by a staff of artists paid by means of grants; Ms. Pitt by no means had the backing of a significant studio.
In “Joy Street” (1995), she instructed the story of a china mouse that comes alive from its perch on an ashtray to save lots of a despondent lady residing in a darkish house. Mutated to a measurement bigger than the lady, the mouse carries her down a fireplace escape and right into a park that turns right into a rain forest alive with monkeys, butterflies, ants, frogs and gloriously colourful flora.
The lady awakens to this unusual new world’s pulsating life. Her blue eyes glow. And when the jungle reverie ends, she opens her eyes in her house, smiles to see the mouse dancing, then fortunately flings open her home windows to look at the skin world anew.
Years earlier, Ms. Pitt, within the throes of a deepening despair, discovered solace within the rain forests of Mexico and Guatemala; the hallucinogenic work she made there impressed the scenes from “Joy Street.”
Suzan Lee Pitt was born on July 11, 1943, in Kansas City, Mo., to John and Belva (Baughman) Pitt. Her father owned a tire retailer and mechanic store; her mom was a homemaker. As a woman, Suzan imagined her dolls and toys as objects that might discuss, fly and climb mountains — flights of fancy that she by no means needed to squelch.
“As you develop up you’re anticipated to take all that and make it disappear into the closet,” she mentioned in an interview with Mr. Canemaker in Funnyworld journal in 1979. “What occurs to that impulse, that drive to switch what you see round you into playthings?”
Ms. Pitt attended the University of Alabama for 2 years earlier than transferring on to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., the place she studied portray, graphics and printmaking. She graduated in 1965 with a bachelor of tremendous arts diploma.
Though she by no means fully stopped portray, the impulse to animate her imagery tugged at her. She would say that her work felt “arrested in time.”
A nonetheless from Ms. Pitt’s 1979 movie “Asparagus.” “I needed the movie to reflect the best way we daydream,” she mentioned.Credit scoreSuzan Pitt
One of her earliest animated movies, “Crocus” (1971), makes use of drawings and cutouts in a narrative a couple of couple’s household life; once they make love, birds, flowers, cucumbers and a Christmas tree float out and in of the room till a toddler’s cries finish the parade.
Ms. Pitt made a number of different movies after “Asparagus,” her breakthrough, together with “El Doctor,” a 2006 movie, set in Mexico, about an previous physician who encounters miracles on his final day on earth. The critic Robert Abele, writing in The Los Angeles Times, praised the movie as a “trippy, magic-realist expedition” the place “squirmy human (and nonhuman) varieties wiggle within the body like a micro organism celebration in a festive petri dish.”
The screenplay for “El Doctor” was written by Ms. Pitt’s son, Blue Kraning. He collaborated along with his spouse, Ms. Kraning, on a 2006 brief documentary about his mom, “Persistence of Vision.”
Ms. Pitt was additionally identified for the modern hand-painted coats she created (and bought), utilizing pictures from her movies and widespread tradition. And her animation movie work was used within the set designs of two operas, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust,” each staged in West Germany within the 1980s.
Ms. Pitt, who acquired a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000, taught animation at Harvard and the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita.
In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art in New York offered 5 of her restored movies, persevering with a relationship together with her that started in 1979 with a displaying of “Asparagus.” Josh Siegel, a movie curator at MoMA, mentioned in a cellphone interview that Ms. Pitt had thrived as an impartial filmmaker “completely due to her singular imaginative and prescient, her humorousness and her depraved, subversive aesthetic.”
Ms. Pitt is survived by her son; her sister, Melinda Carlton; and her brother, John. Her marriage to Alan Kraning resulted in divorce.
Her closing movie, “Pinball” (2013), units her largely summary work — which flash by in a whirl of images — to music that George Antheil composed for Fernand Léger’s movie “Ballet Mécanique” (1924) and subsequently revised.
“Think of ‘Pinball,’ ” Ms. Pitt mentioned on her web site about this seven-minute film, “as a spinning flying saucer which lands in your yard, performs, after which flies away to the sound of movie flapping in a projector.”