Sunday, January 10, 2010

We are just forms in Clay: Art Clokey 1921-2010

Today one of the greatest animators, artists, and innovators passed away. Art Clokey was the creator of Gumby, and while we may think of this fanciful blue-green character as a remnant of kitsch, Clokey's creation set the stage for innovations in stop-motion film. 

I recall numerous Gumby shorts from when I was a kid, some extremely surreal and beyond the common platitudes and moral tropes of most children's entertainment. Often the story had no plot, the short was filled with aimless wandering and the childhood experiments of a three-year-old mind, a "What happens when I do this" mentality of film-making more modernist directors try to achieve in contemporary times.  Gumby dared, he walked into books, got into trouble. walked on the moon, crawled into ovens. In one episode, Gumby and Pokey met Native American Gods, Kachina Dolls appeared on the horizon and brought rains to a drought stricken village. Other episodes bordered on the hauntingly terrifying; the children's toyroom where most of the adventures took place had an eerie lighting more appropriate for a poltergeist short than a tale for kids.

And of course, there was Clokey's love of Jazz and abstract shapes. Gumbasia is probably the best representative of love. 

In honor of his life, please enjoy this short film.

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