Artist talks on mixing artistic mediums at Ballard Institute

Artist and professor Laura Heit (Northwest Pacific College of Art) discussed her richly varied work in stop-motion film, live-action puppetry, drawing, and computer animation, in the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut as part of its Spring Puppet Forum Series on Wednesday April 20, 2016. (Erming Gao/The Daily Campus)

Many skills and disciplines are merged in order to create art – with animation and puppetry being no exception. Speaking to that experience was artist Laura Heit, who shed light on the skills involved at the Ballard Institute of Museum and Puppetry Wednesday night.

Heit is an artist from Portland, Oregon, who works mostly in animation and installation art currently and previously taught experimental animation at California Institute of the Arts. Heit started off in puppetry while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she took an animation class on a whim.

Heit described that experience, saying “It felt like I had discovered what I had been trying to do with my drawings my whole life.”

Heit worked with the puppetry company called In the Heart of the Beast, influenced by the Bread and Puppet Theatre company. She also worked at Redmoon Theatre company as a master builder and designer of puppets and sets, where she would eventually run a shop and employ 15 designers of both puppetry and theatre.

Heit talked about working in different mediums for puppetry such as animation and film, informing the audience of several puppetry artists about her experience in bringing her work to film and animation festivals.

“When you are in between disciplines it’s really hard – film festivals don’t show it because they don’t consider it film and animation festivals don’t show because they don’t consider it animation,” Heit said. “I think there is still room for conversation about that.”

During the talk she screened a short animation film that she did during her undergrad, made almost entirely in the medium of paper as well as part of a comedic piece from her Matchbox series, which are very small scale productions the size of a matchbox.

“Each matchbox contains its own story, some are dreams being retold, others are circus acts, or nightclub rendezvous, there is a short story of love lost and found, a play written when she was 9 years old, and many others,” wrote Joel Del Signore of The Gothamist on Heit’s website.

Heit also screened part of a toy puppetry piece, “The Amazing, Mysterious and True Story of Mary Anning and Her Monsters,” a story about British paleontologist Mary Anning who played a major role in discovering the first Ichthyosaurus and laying the foundations of the scientific discipline of paleontology.

“I really enjoyed the way she mixes mediums and that she has all these really clever tricks. I really like her imagery and aesthetics.  Nothing was just flat or simple, it felt like a lot of research and thought went into her work,” said Ana Craciun, a sixth-semester puppetry arts graduate student.

The full presentation of her Matchbox shows and her Mary Anning piece will screen at the Ballard this weekend in conjunction with the opening of the exhibit The Bureau of Small Requests, a gallery of Laura Heit’s work.  The gallery opens Saturday at 4:30, at which there will also be the complete screenings of two pieces shown at Wednesday’s event as well as several other pieces of film and performance.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.