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Gretchen Van Lente from Drama of Works Visits October 16, 2008

Posted by leskanturek in 3-D work, Artists, Class Topics, Guest Visits, Narrative, Puppets, Visually Cool & Relevant.
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Monday October 13th saw the class not only play host to a lot of Frankenstein puppets or is it a pride of puppets? A clutch? (see the post: Assignment of Frankenstein! for pics of student’s puppets) we also were graced with a visit from Drama of Works (DOW) Artistic Director, and one of it’s founders, Gretchen Van Lente.

Gretchen’s background started with a BFA in illustration, and a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in theatre. Gretchen showed an interest early on in mixed media often utilizing both 2-D and 3-D elements in her work.

A visit from Gretchen is a performance in itself as she animatedly speaks about her work while interjecting her talk with demonstrations of puppetry. Gretchen’s artistic passion was inspiring as she presented a

(Above) Scenes from DOW productions of (left) Doubting Dorothy, (Middle) curiouser & curiouser, (Right) Sleepy Hollow

wonderful powerpoint slide show of productions DOW has staged such as; Doubting Dorothy (a version of the Wizard of OZ story), Doctor Faustus, The Ballad of Phineas P. Gage, Titus, The Sid and Nancy Punch and Judy Show, Curiouser & Curiouser (Alice in Wonderland), and Puppet Kafka among others. Gretchen and DOW have maintained an international presence traveling to Puppetry Festivals from Finland to Bali and

(Above) Gretchen demo-ing the bug used in Puppet Kafka which was created out of an overturned basket.

points in between. While traveling Gretchen has had a chance to view a number of different forms and traditions of puppetry. DOW, and Gretchen, favor a “McGyver-esque” approach to narratives and puppets.

(Above) Gretchen holding up a mirror. The image on the mirror (here a hand), causes an ethereal, distorted version of the drawing to appear on objects the reflected light falls on.

Any object that can be manipulated in some way can be used to further a narrative according to Gretchen, so DOW productions tend to utilize traditional puppetry along with the experimental all in the same production.

Puppetry is at a natural intersection between 2-D and 3-D illustration, animation, graphic narratives, in short all the elements that are seen in the new venues that have opened up for illustration in the last few years. View DOW’s collaboration with GH avisualagency on a shadow film for NOKIA which plays on a giant screen at Heathrow airport in London. Also take a look at Dave McKean’s work. McKean was aware very earlier on of this intersection as evidenced not only by the mixture of traditional media and 3-D in his Sandman covers but in his graphic novel The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Vertigo. His collaborative film with Neil Gaiman, Mirror Mask was a natural progression of the melding of all these disciplines.

Puppetry, with it’s rich history of traditional craft and experimentation is another branch of a tree also occupied by illustration. Like illustration puppetry has a background of drawing inspiration from literature. Both disciplines utilize some of the same skill sets because they share common goals. I’m hoping that Gretchen’s visit not only inspires potential puppet creators but also influences and expands students notions of the possibilities of illustration.

Thanks for speaking in class Gretchen!



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