Karen Aqua

One of the featured artists of INtransit V.6: “scientific american” is animation video artist Karen Aqua. Here is an interview exploring the process of creating “Twist of Fate”, a video piece exploring how modern illness intrudes and impacts one’s inner and outer experience. Her website is: http://aquak.home.att.net/index.html

1)   What was the process of making this film like for you?

Sometimes the film was really hard to work on emotionally. But most of the time it was very positive: empowering and cathartic, a sense of taking control. When I first drew an image visualizing a cancer cell, it was very important for me. Here was something totally invisible that was dangerous and threatening, that I was able to make visible.  In a way, I felt that I could see and confront the enemy.  Visualization has always been a powerful tool for me.

The process of animation is also very labor-intensive & repetitive and there are lots of mundane tasks (like coloring and cutting).  So the work was also very distracting and absorbing, as I spent many weeks/months/years simply creating the drawings (a very pleasant endeavor).

2)   Do you see the arts and sciences related? How?

Many artists incorporate the sciences into their work (including my studio mate, Jeanee Redmond, who works in clay). The sciences offer a rich source of inspiration, and the intersection between the 2 disciplines is open to endless possibilities of creative interpretations.

3)   Would you relate any part of your art-making process to therapy, in the sense that it allowed you to reframe or transform your way of looking at or experiencing this illness? Or in another therapeutic way?

For a while after diagnosis and starting treatment, I felt so not myself, identifying myself as a cancer patient who happened to be an artist.  A huge shift happened when I started to get back into my studio and get to work again.  I was able to identify myself as an artist who happened to be dealing with cancer. This was when I felt the essence of myself returning, and it really helped.

In the creation of this film and related drawings over eight years, I turned to my art-making is a necessary, nurturing, cathartic, and life-affirming endeavor, as well as a means for sharing this experience with others.

Still image from "Twist of Fate"

4)   What are some of your future artistic and/or personal goals?

I have recently started a new animation project inspired by New Mexico, using pastel drawings to explore elements of architecture and the natural world.  It connects to the natural sciences through an interest in and close observation of insects and plants.  With this new project, I am continuing to experiment with combining drawings with animated textures and found materials.