Martha Colburn and the Evil of Femininity

Martha Colburn is experimental video artist who creates provocative films about consumerism, religion, politics, and sexuality using hand-painted and stop motion animations. Colburn created her first films, in 1994, after purchasing a splicer and projector from the city surplus dump. In these works, Colburn hand-manipulates 16mm found footage into tight action sequences joined with debris particles, press-on iconography, and hand-painted animations.

During this period, Colburn experimented with various aspects of editing, such as structure and pace, while also investigating the physical attributes of her craft by implementing non-digital techniques. “Faster than the human heartbeat,” her films create a “near seizure” experience combining rebellious subject matter with post-punk tunes. In an interview with Metropolis M Magazine, Colburn revealed her early films were heavily inspired by the “avant-garde freak music” she made with her friends. Colburn often matched her videos in length to their tracks, typically following a two-minute format.

Soon after experimenting with found footage, Colburn began forming her own visual landscapes by merging collage and painting to create high-intensity animations of bizarre, deviant subject matter. In Evil of Dracula (1997), Colburn paints fangs and sinister eyes on attractive, models in advertisements creating a hypnotic film which comments on consumerism and mass-consumption. 

Continuing the theme of disconcerting sexuality, Cat Amore (2002) is a two-minute animation made using collage puppets of half-naked woman with superimposed cat heads and drooling dog men. The video uses the playful hybrid characters to discuss sexual desire as an animal instinct in a way that is both humorous and unnerving.

In description of her work, Colburn notes “sex and death are never far away, under the surface of the blushing bare chests and the celluloid.” As this quote reveals, one major commonality in her work is the impending doom of death grinning at us all. However, just as Colburn’s work guaranties death and carnage it also promises a celebration of life embodied through depictions the youth, fame, and pleasure in Evil of Dracula and Cat Amore.

Below is a short stop motion I produced in response to Colburn's work featuring risque collaging, dripping watercolor, and garage-rock tunage.

The video was featured in an exhibition at the Abroms-Engel Institute for Visual Arts were it was projected on the outside of the building.

Samantha Richardson