Asparagus

I had a garden where I grew Asparagus from seed - it’s a very primitive vegetable going back to the time of the dinosaurs. It comes out of the ground as a phallic stalk, pointy and purple green, the essence of a beautiful masculine form. But then as summer passes it stretches tall and becomes a delicate fern, seen on roadsides tilting in the wind, the essence of the feminine like long strands of tangled hair in the breeze.  I thought of it as a beautiful symbol of sexuality. From that I made a visual poem about the creative process, taking the role of the magician/artist as the protagonist who ushers the viewers through her search for the essence of the creative forces which rule and drive our existence.

Being merely human she searches and watches and tries to see into the secrets of the passing garden… she imagines a sexual interrelationship, those particular moments in which all is knowable and awareness of time and being simply Are. Paper illusions created to represent the search are carefully presented, performing in the theater, and she returns home to the garden.

I wanted the film to mirror the way we daydream - as Jung said, “Images are pregnant”: each image leading to the next, the mind unfolding, constantly giving birth. I wanted the audience to see the film unfold as if in a daydream. Paced slowly and carefully, each stage and scene fully dense and a bit hyper-illusionistic, the movement going forward without the jar of the “cut”. I brought back the”wipe”, an early film device to create transitions to keep the action evolving more than changing.

The film is a circle more than a straight-ahead experience - you could enter at any point and the meaning would be the same. The taking in and spewing out, the searching and the discovering, the desire and the contact, the ever-evolving acts of nature. There is something of the 60's and the 70's there in the film- acid and hallucinogens and spectacular insight and the trance of getting lost and being found- and color. All my films have been made by hand and shot under a 35mm camera - the slight jiggles and the layering of the cels and the hand-drawn animation, and the staccato vibrations of the shading and the variances of light and the medium of film itself are all a part of the way the movies look and feel. To me as different as looking at a painting and looking at a reproduction of a painting - the film quality itself is a part of the message.

The animation constitutes one of the most important works of imagination seen in some time, filled with every possible animation technique, all exquisitely rendered, all calculated to produce incredible wonder in the heart of the viewer. It is a children’s fairy tale for adults.
— B. Ruby Rich
One of the most adventurous animators working in America today.
— Diane Jacobs
...the extraordinary ASPARAGUS, one of the most lavish and wondrous animated shorts ever made, an overwhelming visual experience.
— John Cannemaker

Selected Screenings

Main Prize and International Critics Prize, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Germany
Best Film of 1978, ASIFA East Annual Awards (International Association of Film Animation)
First Prize, Ann Arbor Film Festival
First Prize, Kenyon Film Festival
First Prize, Baltimore Film Festival
First Prize, Atlanta Independent Film and Video Festival
The Cinémathèque Française
Demande de Droit de Projection - Chengdu, Chine
TATE Modern Museum - London
Gagneffestival in Dalarna - Sweden
Studio 44 Film Festival - Stockholm
Museum of Modern Art - New York