Artist Hiram Amber D. Kempthorn captures the fleeting moments we can’t hold on to in her drawings. From sunsets to coffee mugs, she incorporates the familiar.
“When I draw, I think a lot, frankly, about stopping time,” Kempthorn said. “It’s a way of creating a document, you know, it’s evidence fabrication.”
For a long time she wanted to try to animate her work but didn’t know how. Then she heard about a scholarship opportunity in Akron.
“It wasn’t until the Knight Arts Challenge that I finally said… ‘Maybe this is the time to do it,'” she said.
Kempthorn launched the creation of an animation on “Four Sea Interludes” by British composer Benjamin Britten, performed live by the Akron Symphony Orchestra. After winning a $54,000 grant through the Knight Arts Challenge in 2019, she raised matching funds and collaborated with both the orchestra and a production studio that could help bring her designs to life.
“It wasn’t just about making music a purely visual thing,” she said. “I wanted this bigger experience.”
Her modern translation of the 80-year-old piece of music aims to make it more accessible to more people, she said.
Northeast Ohio audiences will appreciate many local influences in Kempthorn’s animation, “Ordinary Magic: A Sunday Afternoon in the Cuyahoga Valley.” In one section, viewers see the Goodyear Blimp in the sky and a Cavs basketball bouncing around, while whimsically cleaning a motorcycle.
The familiar objects in her art disrupt “the way we might normally encounter these objects in a space” and provide “a little wink to the viewer”, she said. “As you and I both know this is all made up.”
Landscape is also an important part of his art, recognizing the beauty of nature and its contemplative effect.
“I hope when you approach a drawing or even when you see the animation, you can see yourself there,” Kempthorn said.
In order to add movement to her work, she has created hundreds of drawings for animation, from the rising of the moon to the rotation of a compass in space. To help her describe the slight changes that occur when objects move, she filmed real action with the help of a neighbor.
“She was getting a text from me on Monday afternoon that said something like, ‘Can you come into the yard and hold a lawn chair and move it around the space? And I’m going to film you doing that,” Kempthorn said.
The animation changes with the musical changes. For example, there is a silent wonder in the moonlight and a disturbance in a storm. The animation begins with the transition from dark to light before sunrise.
“I really wanted to capture that feeling of when you’re someone who works and you start at like five in the morning,” she said. “There’s this transference happening, isn’t there? Where, you know, you’re standing there, maybe drinking your coffee and looking out the window… This transition is happening from the inner light to the outer light, you know, it’s just such a beautiful moment of the day.
The past two months have been filled with exciting times for Kempthorn, who also teaches drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She just got a Cleveland Arts Awards, and the Akron Symphony Orchestra performed with its entertainment in October. Kempthorn is now looking to expand the reach of “Ordinary Magic”.
“I would love for other orchestras to do that,” she said. “To get more people to fall in love with Benjamin Britten, to get more people to fall in love with classical music, to feel like this is all something they can, you know, participate in and participate in.”
A selection of his drawings as well as the projection of the animation with orchestration are presented as part of an exhibition, “With (drawing)”, at the Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland until November 23.