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People on Campus: Professor Martha Gorzycki

March 27, 2006

Photo of Martha GorzyckiStudents in Martha Gorzycki's animation classes do not watch the likes of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny or Bambi. Instead, they watch lesser-known experimental, independent animation from around the world. Gorzycki hopes these films will show students the limitless visual boundaries of animation and inspire their own filmmaking.

"Animation can be born from everything: architecture, cartography, sand, glass, whatever," said Gorzycki, assistant professor and animation coordinator for the Cinema Department.

For Gorzycki, a painter and animator, inspiration came during 11 years of recurring dreams that featured colorful collages of a female silhouette interacting with animals, plant life, the moon and sun. She brought these images to life in "Peace Dreams," her seven-minute animated film completed last fall.

Gorzycki, who earned a master of fine arts degree from SFSU in 2002, said the University's animation program is different from others in that it stresses more than job training. She encourages students to "explore their inner voice" and become auteurs.

Only the most dedicated, passionate students stick with animation, due to the amount of time and work needed to make a film. It takes 720 drawings to create one minute of film, Gorzycki noted.

"Martha is the driving force behind our animation program and the reason it is considered one of the premier programs in the country," said Stephen Ujlaki, cinema professor and chair.

Gorzycki's interest in animation was sparked while an undergraduate painting major at Yale University. One of her most influential professors was Faith Hubley, an Oscar-winning filmmaker whose animated movies explored social issues beyond the traditional children's cartoons. Gorzycki, who has taught animation at SFSU since 1998 and earned a tenure-track position in 2002, attempts to carry on Hubley's tradition of experimental, socially aware animation through her own films and teaching.

Gorzycki considers "Peace Dreams" her first film, as she started it 15 years ago. During this time, however, she also completed "Unfurling," a silent animated short that won the 2003 Art in Motion IV Student Award at University of Southern California and was shown continuously on a Hollywood billboard for six months. She has also worked on other films about indigenous cultures in the United States and Mexico and exhibited media installations at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and Santa Fe, N.M., Art Institute.

Through her recurring dreams she has gained new perspectives on life and spirituality and explored Native American cultures. For a time she lived on a reservation and studied with elders of the Seneca Nation and Yankton Sioux tribe.

"The dreams themselves flipped the world upside down," Gorzycki said. "I had nothing in my own (American) culture or education that gave me a frame of reference."

"Peace Dreams" premiered in December at a special event of the San Francisco chapter of the International Animation Film Association.

Gorzycki is working on an experimental film that will compare entertainment and news footage on television, as well as a film that will take a second look at her dreams. It is all part of her ongoing journey to gain a better understanding of human existence and inspire the next generation of animation filmmakers.

-- Matt Itelson
Photo: Mitch Wong


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Last modified March 27, 2006 by University Communications