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Remembering filmmaker Karen Aqua

In memoriam
By DAVID KLEILER  |  June 9, 2011

The Boston area has lost one of the most vibrant and creative animators in the region — an artist whose personality and vision merged to inspire and unify animation talent locally and beyond. Her films and her passionate commitment to independent animation were as intense as her often red hair and her taste for exotic clothing. Karen Aqua died on May 30 after a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 57. She will be greatly missed.

I first met Karen 30 years ago this month. Larry Silverman, one of the founders of Off the Wall, the legendary movie theater/café in Central Square, came to help me when I was starting up my portable underground film series, Rear Window, dedicated to showing the work of local independent filmmakers. He took me to the home and studio of Karen and Ken Field on Inman Street in Cambridge. In my first Rear Window presentation, I showed two of her films.

Her early work was fascinating. Constantly moving images of objects splitting apart, recombining, and coming together permeate her work. In Vis a Vis, she explores the solitary endeavor that is being an animator. Her character has a tension between the desire to create and the yearning to play. It's less of a dichotomy because she finds a way to unify both impulses, as, I think, she did in her life.

As effective as Karen was at getting her own work out, she was a tireless promoter of the work of her colleagues. She and Branca Bogdanov, curator of film and video at the ICA, put on the New England Animation Festival, showcasing outstanding work from the region. There I saw one of her later films, Twist of Fate, about her own dealings with cancer treatment. I got her to submit it to a very small festival in Vermont. She went and had a great time, and got paid. But the important thing was getting the work seen. She was truly a dominant force in the New England filmmaking community.

A memorial service will be held for Karen on Sunday, July 10, at 2 pm at the Arts Center at the Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, in Somerville. There will be New Orleans–style music organized by Karen's musician husband and a selection of Karen's films, both older and more recent. The planners of the event promise to capture her ebullient spirit.

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  Topics: This Just In , Larry Silverman, Central Square, Karen Aqua,  More more >
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