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A mixed-media video

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Kris O’Brien (’18 MFA, Visual Communication and Design/Film Video) doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating. Growing up in rural Minnesota, she was inspired by nature and allowed to explore all of her artistic interests.

“Even at a very young age, I was always allowed access to art supplies, building supplies, and various tools,” she says. “This helped me nurture the ability to experiment with materials and processes.”

As a costume specialist and graphic designer for the Department of Theatre Arts, O’Brien—also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History—still finds plenty of ways to explore her creativity.

Last year, when COVID-19 presented a unique challenge for collaborative art, O’Brien saw an opportunity to create something beautiful: Applique, a handmade animation that merges dance and theater, featuring original percussive audio, vibrant lighting, and scenic and textile elements that creatively honor the choreography. The team working on Applique included nine students and four faculty members, including O’Brien.

Applique is a joyful sharing of talents, ideas, and cultures,” she says. “It is a human-made animation that celebrates the piecing together of simple, yet elegant components crafted by many hands.”

To maintain the health and safety of all involved, O’Brien ensured that everything was socially distanced, developing a process of filming the performers separately and placing them together with a paper stop motion/rotoscope animation to form the illusion of spatial interaction.

“I’m drawn to the live performance feel and the immediacy of stop motion—which sounds funny because it’s so time-consuming,” she says. “What I mean is that there is so much room for error, and once you shoot a frame and move the components, it’s extremely difficult to go back. You have to commit and live with the results, so it’s quite exciting in that aspect.”

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