Clay people and puppets wander visiting artist’s oeuvre

Animator and digital artist Joshua Mosley showcased several original films during a lecture on artistic technique. (Tom O'Dell)

Where art, music and filmmaking meet for an often esoteric, sometimes breathtaking and always interesting 10-minute celebration of high culture —
that’s where Joshua Mosley crafts his visions.

Mosley, an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania, animator and graphic artist, spoke to a large group of students and faculty and showcased several of his short animated films in the Library Auditorium last Wednesday March 24.

Mosley’s short films blend his distinct style of animation, a form of claymation that involves claylike puppet figures, with other, often divergent art forms — a puppet walking around a pencil-drawn village, a puppet car driving down a photographed road, a bronze statue seen outside a sketched window by a man made of clay.

“I really wanted to bring my drawing and painting process into the animation process,” said Mosley, who originally went to college for painting before switching his focus to animation. “It felt natural to me.”

He described the progression of his career trajectory from a painting major at the Art Institute of Chicago interested in sketching to an animation major interested in film.

“I graduated right when it was becoming possible to edit things on a computer,” Mosley said. “So then I thought, ‘I could start looking into animation. I could apply to grad school!’ So I did go to grad school and produced a couple things in those two years.”

Mosley showed several of those productions on Wednesday, including short films “Beyrouth,” “A Vue” and “Dread.” “Beyrouth,” the first film Mosley showed, contained an amalgamation of claymation figures and painted sets, set to the haunting strains of a piece of classical music.

After the showing, Mosley fielded questions from audience members, predominantly about his work style and preferences of medium.

“It was interesting,” said Maria Banis, senior psychology major, who attended the presentation with her art history class. “The first film he showed was my favorite. I didn’t quite understand it, but I liked the music. I thought the music was beautiful, and that’s what made the piece for me.”

Mosley’s pieces, which have won a number of awards, have bent the rules of medium to craft a new kind of art. One professor raised the question, does the visionary hope to continue paving a trail in the new world of artistic animation?

He isn’t sure.

“I kinda feel like I want to paint again,” Mosley said.

Whatever route of creative expression he does decide to pursue, one thing is sure — this artist has our attention.