The
CalArts Alumni Magazine

Suzan Pitt (1943–2019)

Suzan Pitt Headshot
Suzan Pitt

It is with great sorrow that we note the passing of Suzan Pitt, a singular artist and one of the great contributors to the art of animation in the last century. Friend and faculty colleague, Maureen Selwood remembers:

The Experimental Animation Program invited Suzan to teach at CalArts in 1998. She came to us providing a perspective of seeing animation as something that broadened a whole spectrum of inclusionary methods: opera, painting, performance, murals, theater sets, and finally painted art coats inspired by the street life of New York City, a signage of urban rumble. We needed her when she arrived. Her bravery and skills permeated the program bringing forth new thinking about the animated film with new conversations. She never withheld what she felt needed to be said and always asked one to go further, to risk more and to be as honest as possible. Her syllabi were exciting to read with her complex associations in the art worlds of New York and Berlin in the 1970s, and with artists whom she knew personally. Her seminal film, Asparagus, is as provocative today as when it was first screened in 1979. Suzan believed that within us we have the ability to unfold the way we dream, that each image leads us to the next image, giving birth to dense scenes, often hyper-illusionistic. She gave us her theatrical dreams executed with extraordinary self-control, showing us that language alone was inadequate.

Suzan was eager to explain to students the underpinnings of the complex form of animation art—always pushing them to go deeper into their own inner lives to bring forth original, significant work. She was quick to point out what to avoid, what needed to come forth. Her wicked sense of humor was accompanied by a great laugh. She created complex images that provoked and shocked, and she delighted in knowing that she did so. Suzan rode by horseback across Mexico, lived in the isolated woods of Michigan, and cared for her beloved garden in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mt. Washington, finally settling in New Mexico where she passed away on June 16, 2019.

“We needed Suzan when she arrived. Her bravery and skills permeated the program bringing forth new thinking about the animated film with new conversations.”