Contact Info: email@example.com, 631-721-5937, 433 W. 34th St. New York, NY 10001
My work has shown in many wonderful venues including,
The National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The New Museum, the Museum of Art and Design, BAM, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Also you can see my videos in film festivals from the Chicago International Children’s Film festival and San Francisco International Children’s Film Festival to Nickelodeon and PBS.
Just to save you some searching in the video section, my best loved films include ‘Runaway Bathtub’, ‘Christmas Tree’, and ‘The Book of Visions’, which was chosen by Mormon Arts and Letters as the Film of the Year.
Photo by Kah Poon, styling by Fred Flare.
I would like to especially thank Lisa King of the KidsFilmFest for being a guide and mentor to me, highlighting me in their programming and developing wonderful kids programs in the New York area and beyond.
Also I must mention Keith Carollo my constant inspiration at fredflare.com who hosted my comic ‘Puppy Tails’ for two years, some of those comics can be seen on this site. I love you Puppy!!!!
I am a stop motion animator, sculptor, and cartoonist working in the city of my dreams, New York City! Most of what I do is somehow inspired by the idyllic childhood my parents took care to craft for me. Sort of a sagging refinement. (I am not able to carry off proper refinement so things are a bit dingy and wobbly). When I was a child, my mom encouraged me and my six sisters in the arts of cross-stitch, toll painting, piano, baking, and art history. Instead of allowance I remember getting paid handsomely for learning to play Mozart’s airs, and receiving nickels at the Metropolitan Museum for correctly guessing painter’s names. We also had plenty of unsupervised fun and no TV was allowed! Mom said the TV didn’t work because it was struck by lightning. Years later a sibling revealed the secret to making it work: “plug it in”. My room was in the basement and I built a drawing table out of scraps of wood from the tool area. I set it up by the boiler tank and spent hours making up characters. My friend Cathy dreamed of using me as a stepping stone to fame. She proposed to be my agent marketing my cartoon character, ‘Togby’. Catherine Tyc, if you are reading this, he was copied from a book!!! Sorry about that, but in more recent news my ‘Puppy’ character is original.
Adulthood inevitably came round. I attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. I dropped painting studies in the last semester of the last year. My husband had complained that the paintings were ‘stiff’. He asked if there was something from childhood I could use to inspire me and bring out my playful personality. Paper had been my favorite toy. So I ressurrected an unfinished theatre production of ‘The Roly Poly Pudding’ originally staged in my playhouse window. Instead of puppets on straws, this time I made a truly disconcerting black and white film. It was a hit! It was stop motion! I went on to make almost 20 more that showed to happy children in film festivals around the U.S.
I recently completed a super fun series of sculptures about my mom and her ‘fancy’ influence on the Benac family. They are made of truly humble materials (foam core, sharpies, thread and superglue). Inspiration for individual items comes from Sotheby’s auction catalogs, the Gilded Age, and mom’s home furnishings.
Right now I am working on a series of colorful cuckoo clock paintings, inspired by a broken clock I found at a tag sale.
When we were little, my mother frequently spoke to us in French. In the grocery store checkout line mostly. We children didn’t speak French and cried and whined, hoping to convince onlookers that we were in fact all Americans.
A large portrait of my mother in a blue ball gown hangs at the top of the stairs. It was painted in the eighties by Dad’s secretary, capturing mom’s beaming anticipation before she and Dad headed into New York City for a waltz evening. I used to stare at the painting, admiring the sparkling bracelet and deftly painted veins on the graceful hand. When not waltzing, Mom spent hundreds of hours sewing church dresses for her daughters, all from one Laura Ashley pattern. My favorite part was the tucks she sewed into the skirts. We could let them out as we got taller. One spring weekend, in preparation for my sister’s wedding reception, mom chose an unusually glossy fabric. It was white with large purple flowers and ribbons. At the reception my boredom was alleviated when I spilled my cup of purple punch into my lap. I watched in amazement as the punch beaded up. It streamed to the floor in rivulets, not a drop sinking into my white skirt. The skirt, I decided, was made of Scotch guarded upholstery fabric.
I think mom must have been studying the paintings of the Dutch old masters the day she sent me to my social dance class wearing white gloves and a homemade blue taffeta dress. The focal point was a ruffled lace collar that sprang up around my neck like a clown at a tea party. My pride in my beautiful dress dried up quickly when the boys crossed the gym to pick their partners. Evidently they didn’t catch my costume’s historical references. That day, like most others, I was stuck dancing the man’s part.
Mom was obsessed with reading and memorizing European lines of royalty. She kept an illustrated diagram in her sewing room and would give me little lessons on the complicated bloodlines and intrigues. She once told me I was named after Queen Anne. My subsequent research uncovered the thrilling information that the Queen Anne was charged with adultery, incest, treason, and had her head removed. Mom did have a flair for naming things. Our spotted cat was ‘Blanche Dubois’. The black lab we found on the highway responds to ‘Carmencita la Infanta Gloriosa del Camino’. Our back porch is now known as ‘The Loggia’. The covered drive through, she insists, is the ‘Porte Cocher’.
Mom had a whole cart of herbal teas in the ‘breakfast room’ adorned with a mug tree, and blue and white teapots in their cozies. Tea-time was not a widespread custom in Dallas Texas and I scoffed at the cart when I would pass it in the kitchen on the way to school. Mom makes it a grand ceremony to emerge from the kitchen with tea and cookies to delight us on Christmas Eve. It makes her subsequent recitation of ‘The Messiah’ much more palatable.
One Christmas, Mom gave each of her seven daughters a heavy solid silver pitcher, with scrolling embellishments and a pretty apparatus to hold back the ice. Yes silver, real silver. She said it was for our ‘trousseaus’. When I moved to college, I had only a small closet of clothes, futon, bass guitar, and my silver pitcher. I had no shelves and so the pitcher had to rest alone on top of my boa constrictor’s cage. Even now that I am married, I am afraid I will never live up to that sweet pitcher’s expectations.
As high school drew to a close, the family’s finances began to rise closer towards those of the royals. The home soon populated with fake antique furniture. Real antique furniture followed and the last time I went home I found gilded oil paintings of the Virgin Mary on the bathroom walls. Mom had gone all the way to Cuzco to pick them out. Now at 60, She conducts bilingual tours at the local art museums. She keeps incredibly fit playing tennis every day followed by voracious reading about the royals. In her dotage her reading has even expanded to include royal mistresses and court portrait artists. I think she finally lives in the splendor she always dreamed of. When I call on the phone she almost always concludes our talk saying something to the effect of, ‘Well Annie I’ve really got to get in the tub! I’m almost finished reading ‘La Infanta Eulalia of Spain’ or ‘I’ve got to go, Enrique is building me a rack for my spools of thread.’ Somehow in adulthood my bewilderment and resentment of these strange customs has melted into a magical crush for a way of life that is more beautiful than reality could ever be.
Now , I’m 34. I call my mom on the phone every day, usually while I’m out walking the city streets. Over the sound of New York’s blaring sirens and construction sites, I press my headphones tightly to my ears. We coo over Lady Jane’s eutopian 9 day rule over England. We recoil at the mention of ‘Philip the Fair’. We troll the Netflix archives for ‘Movies based on English novels with a strong female lead’. Mom shares tips on making Madame Bovary themed candles or wonders how to create the perfect ratio of oatmeal to soap in her molded bars of ‘savon’. She marks them with the fleur de lys.
In my cozy apartment I create fanciful tiny replicas of antique furniture. Fireplaces embellished with cherub’s faces and cornucopia, beaded chandeliers, chairs with arching legs and embroidered vignettes on their backs. I set up my furniture in little scenes on my work table and turn to gaze at them as if in a trance. I can almost see my teensy mother pulling out a tiny chair and opening her reticule to lay out her craft supplies. My fancy little furniture is giving me a second pass at the dream mom intended my life to be.