Passenger, a stop motion animation, cuts between two stories set in 1914; the “Pageant of the Melting Pot” ritual held at the Ford Factory english assimilation school and the extinction of the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha. The Passenger Pigeon was a communal bird that traveled in flocks turning the sky black, in an almost mystical occurrence. Thought to be an endless resource, the birds went extinct. This animation looks at how capitalist industry, ignorance, and opportunity were driving forces for: assimilation of new immigrants into assuming a white racial identity and the extinction of the passenger pigeon. This animation was scored by Vernacular String Trio who referenced European folk music.
My recent body of work, “The Invention of Whiteness” utilizes animation, painting, and collage, to investigate my white identity through both an individual and group context while also questioning the common assumption of “Whiteness” as an implied norm and a kind of symbolic lack of cultural identity. Through this research, I attempt to untangle my ethnic and cultural identity by looking at the the social and historical construct of “whiteness”. The resulting artwork is at times a documentation of my search, a reflection on my experience of whiteness, and/or an attempt to answer my own questions about the formation of racial identity. I believe by understanding the invention of race in our country and our families, and the role I play within it as a white woman, I can come closer to understanding the constructs of race, structural racism, and its tragic mechanisms and enduring legacy, while also reminding white audiences that they too have responsibility to understand the implications of their identity.
I make work about subcultures, outsiders, and the informal configurations of community. While I was trained as a painter, for the past twelve years, I have been making animated documentaries and experimental films, from my paintings and collages, using stop motion animation techniques. Utilizing found materials – old magazines, photos, or objects, I aim to deconstruct the histories and associations of these items, to illustrate a point or give life to an idea. With all these mediums, my hope is to capture the essence of a person or place. When I interview a person in preparation for an animation, I seek a dialogue with each individual that will reveal their complexity in an an effort to connect with what they are passionate about and see how it relates to their history and my own.
SARAH PAULSEN Raised in Kirkwood, Missouri, Sarah Paulsen is an artist, filmmaker and community organizer whose artwork has been exhibited widely in local and national exhibitions, and whose prize- winning films have been featured in the St. Louis International Film Festival, the True/False Film Festival, the Black Maria Film Festival, the Motivate Film Festival and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, among many others. A 2010 C.A.T. Institute fellow and 2015 Regional Arts Commission Artist Fellow, she has garnered numerous awards for her work and also completed several residencies – including the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris. A dedicated advocate for social change, a key aspect of Paulsen’s practice has always involved the orchestration of large-scale community projects, such as participatory public murals, thematic round-table discussions and the now-annual People’s Joy Parade on Cherokee Street, currently in its tenth year. Paulsen holds a B.F.A. in visual art from the University of Missouri, Columbia and an M.F.A. from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University. She lives and works in St. Louis, where she teaches art and animation at Marian Middle School, CAM, and UMSL.