Animation Heroine Meets Ladies of Animation!

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Above: Gennie Rim, founder / owner of GR Works, in front of “Ladies of Animation”. Photo: Samantha Conroy.

Since February 9th, GR Works has played host to displaying the personal endeavors of twelve women in the animation industry, under the title "Ladies of Animation". Upon hearing that the exhibition had been extended until March 14th, I pondered the possibility of whether I could get there in time. Finally throwing caution to the wind, I impulsively hopped on a bus from SF to LA — and found myself in the company of the generous Gennie Rim, who welcomed me into the gallery an hour before their regular hours.

The space is incredibly open, and still a work in process. Gennie and her compatriots have clearly put many hours into renovating the space themselves. The walls are clean and softly lit from a track that runs above. Each artist is given a section devoted to the pieces they contributed to the exhibit. After I urgently looked at the work, Gennie and I chatted briefly about the exhibit, how it came to be, and her intentions moving forward.

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Above: Installation view of the right wall as you enter, courtesy GR Works.
Photo: Samantha Conroy.

"Ladies of Animation" has its roots in a show Rim curated before moving to LA, also on the personal work of animation artists. Coincidentally, however, all of these artists were men. In hindsight, this is where Rim decided the idea for an antithetical show came to mind. It was always her intent, upon realizing that the artists were male, to eventually curate another show focused on women.

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Above: Installation view of the back and left walls, relative to the entrance of the gallery. The wall to the right is the same one Gennie stands in front of. Both walls contain work by Claire Keane, one of the exhibit’s largest contributors. Courtesy of GR Works.
Photo: Samantha Conroy.

One of my first questions revolved around Rim’s selection process, and whether it was intentional to include so many works by women that depict women (notable exceptions include: Anna Chambers, Kendelle Hoyer, Lissa Treiman, Nicole Mitchell, and Pamela Tu – I should add that this observation is not a strike against those that took either stance). Rim replied that to the contrary, pieces are often selected based on a personal connection with the artist(s), and that she is devoted to giving them a safe space to feel free to explore whatever they find fit. Almost all of the pieces shown were created with this specific exhibit in mind. Some artists were even displaying their work for the first time publicly, such as Hoyer and Chen.

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Above: Partial installation view of the wall immediately to the left of the gallery entrance. Courtesy GR Works. Photo: Samantha Conroy.

Rim emphasizes that this aforementioned process of experimenting by trying new techniques, materials, and subjects is crucial to the development of a successful creative life, professional or not. In other words: to do what may not come naturally. Rim made the example of story artists, which several of the exhibited artists are. Story artists are expected and used to working very loosely, but here are making tighter and personally driven pieces for the exhibition. For those that work in visual development, they are here given the opportunity to discover their own worlds, characters, and moods. In short, Rim encourages her artists to develop artistically on a personal level, separate from their professional lives.

However, since these women do simultaneously juggle professional demands, it is especially interesting to the see the results of completely free reign. So, what are the results?

The driving characteristic (and this may seem redundant) is that whatever subject, medium, or format was chosen, all of the artists care intensely about their work. Some are still finding their feet stylistically, and yet others share similar influences given their related interests both professionally and personally. I hesitate to ever use the word “escapist” as a qualifying adjective, but sometimes it does apply. Overwhelmingly, the women focus at some level on fantastical, non-realistic subjects and settings but still work with figures. Character-driven.

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Above: Installation view of Lissa Treiman's contributions at the exhibit, visible in the prior photograph. Courtesy GR Works. Photo: Samantha Conroy

Perhaps one of the most fascinating facets of the exhibition is the variety of mediums displayed. While most of the artists worked with more traditional mediums such as paint and pencil on some level, there was also pastel, sculpture, collage, and paper cutting on display. One has to wonder if this is because the artists were given encouragement, or simply a result of being given creative liberties.

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Above: Some of my favorite ‘Sherlock’ sculptures, by Nicole MitchellCourtesy GR Works. Photo: Samantha Conroy.

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Above: Installation shot of paper-cut work by Brittney Lee.
Courtesy GR Works. Photo: Samantha Conroy.

Rim is more than familiar with all aspects of the animation industry, but her curatorial style has an equally personal touch – driven by causes she cares deeply about. Having worked in the field upwards of 15 years and beginning her career fresh out of high school, Rim has culled these fourteen artists very carefully given the range she likely could have chosen from. While most of the artists are currently employed at large animation studios in some capacity, they also seem to have a personal story attached. She explained to me that Sho Murase was one of the first women Rim considered a mentor. Rim herself seems to be echoing this sentiment by bringing lesser-known women to the fore. An admirable quality to reciprocate what others have done for you, if I do say so myself.

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Above: Two of Sho Murase's pieces in the exhibit. Courtesy GRWorks.
Photo: Samantha Conroy

I have no doubt that with Rim leading the way, women of animation have found a safe space in her gallery to call home. It is one of the happiest relationships between artist and curator that I have ever witnessed, and it makes me certain that anyone involved with the exhibit has grown tremendously from the experience.

Stay tuned over the next week as we take a closer look and feature each of the women exhibited! If you missed the exhibit, hopefully these upcoming photos and snippets behind-the-scenes will fill a huge, gaping hole in your heart.

The complete list of featured artists: Lorelay Bove, Anna Chambers, Helen Mingjue Chen, Clio Chiang, Kendelle Hoyer, Claire Keane, Brittney Lee, Nicole Mitchell, Sho Murase, Griselda Sastrawinata, Lissa Treiman, Pamela TuVictoria Ying, and Fawn Veerasunthorn.

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