Finding the Way Home features drawings, sculpture and paintings that Alan Jennings used to create animated films that explore growing up in northern Vermont. While not strictly autobiographical, his work presents people and places the artist knows well—albeit through a lens of magic realism. In The Northeast Kingdom (2017) we see a realistic depiction of Northfield Falls with its five covered bridges, two of which can be viewed within close proximity to each other. The newcomer who sings opera, raises sheep for wool to knit sweaters, and cuts hair is based on Francisco, an Italian barber who cut Jennings hair when he was a boy. The taxidermied bear in the minister’s office is reminiscent of one that his uncle owned and the stunted blueberry bushes that magically start growing are like the ones that grew behind his house. But the film steps into a strange and wonderful world with the appearance of Deerman, the half man, half deer who first emerged in Dream of Deerman (2016). This mystical creature possesses a magical ability to heal not only an injured bird caught in a trap, but also an emotionally stunted community by getting them to welcome a stranger. But the most obvious blending of fact and magical fiction is found in The Bill Jennings Mysteries (2019), in which Alan Jennings explores the seemingly magical powers of his father Bill. As an “extraordinary man who appears ordinary,” Bill Jennings personifies Vermont as a wonder filled place that inspires the artist.
Alan Jennings has experimented with various methods to create his animated films, from drawing directly onto acetate film stock or by creating gouache paintings that can be scanned and manipulated using digital technology. The Northeast Kingdom (2017) was made at Calarts MFA Experimental program using TVPaint, a 2D animation software based on bitmap technology, which allows the artist to animate natural renderings (gouache, watercolor, oil painting, crayon, or pen) and preserve the look and texture of the original work. The Northeast Kingdom (2017) has been screened at over 25 film festivals including Animafest Zagreb, Stuttgart, Klik, and Anifilm and was winner of best student film at Anima Syros (Greece) and special mentions at Linoleum (Ukraine) and Cardiff Animation Festival (Wales).
To view animated films featured as part of the exhibition, please see:
Dream of Deerman: https://alanjennings.net/dream-of-deerman-2016/
The Northeast Kingdom: https://alanjennings.net/film/the-northeast-kingdom/
The Bill Jennings Mysteries: https://alanjennings.net/film/the-northeast-kingdom/
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Animation artist and filmmaker Alan Jennings received his BFA in Animation from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2007 and then an MFA in Animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 2017. His award winning films have been presented in both national and international film festivals, including Animalfest Zagreb, the Ottawa International Animation Festival, the Stuttgart Festival of Annimated Films, the Holland Animation Festival and numerous others. Recipient of a grant from the Somerville Arts Council, Jennings currently teaches animation at his alma mater MassArt.