Dream voyager: the visionary animation of Suzan Pitt
Suzan Pitt (1943-2018) defined a unique mode of dream-like and intensely handcrafted animation that forged a vital link between American experimental and underground cinema. Pitt first found fame, when her now classic animated film Asparagus was selected to accompany David Lynch’s Eraserhead on its extended, ultimately almost two- year, run of midnight screenings. Nocturnal and elliptical, Asparagus introduced audiences to the strange, surrealist-inflected and psycho-sexually charged oneiricism that would remain a constant throughout her work, while showcasing Pitt’s consummate artistry and skill with variegated animation techniques – from multi-layered cell painting to Claymation. Bold technical experimentation and vivid imagery also distinguishes later Pitt films such as Joy Street, which drew autobiographical inspirationrom chapters in Pitt’s own life both in Boston and Latin America, and the collaboratively made El Doctor. The lush and textually rich imagery at the heart of Asparagus and her later work also points back to Pitt’s background as a painter and affirmed her steadfast dedication to the gestural qualities and movement unique to the work of the human hand, even as the moving image moved increasingly towards the digital. A long- time and beloved member of the legendary CalArts faculty, Pitt was renowned as a teacher and mentor. Before moving to California, Pitt also taught within Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies Department where she worked on her two most ambitious films, Asparagus and Joy Street, inviting Harvard students, such as the important animator-to-be Helen Hill, to be her assistants.