GVSU film professor gets ‘Breathing Room’

Courtesy Photo / Deanna Morse

Courtesy Photo / Deanna Morse

Elijah Brumback

Since the early 1970s, Deanna Morse has worked with and engaged in various forms of art. As an undergraduate student, she studied sculpture, painting, drawing and various other forms of expression. Her interest, she said, is at base level, concerned with how the tools affect the form.

Morse is now in her 30th year of teaching at Grand Valley State University, and while teaching may take up plenty of her time, she remains active as a filmmaker and animator.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. as well as “Sesame Street,” has featured her work.

Her recent short film called “Breathing Room” has been selected to play at several film festivals around the U.S. and abroad. Morse said feedback has been very positive.

“Just being accepted to the festivals is a big deal. I’m thrilled that the piece has had some resonance with people,” she said.

Morse shot the film while an artist-in-residence at FundaciĆ³n Valparaiso, an olive plantation converted into an artist colony in Mojacar, Spain.

During her time there, Morse’s interest in nature and space peaked as the predominant focus of her work, and “Breathing Room” is a vibrant example of this occupation.

The film features rapid frame-by-frame shots of various flowers and moving light in space, while also incorporating a forward time-lapse element. It contains some 3,000 different shots and is what Morse calls, “Brilliant color versus languid light.”

“I was shooting film every day for about one month,” Morse said. “Editing took several months, and (it took) about a year to make altogether.”

Morse described the piece as a sort of experimental study of the energy and movement of nature.

“In a world where we are so surrounded by technology, it seems that we can get a little more grounded by looking at the natural world,” she said.

Morse mentioned research she came across that explains that the more in touch with nature people allow themselves to be, the clearer they seem to think and perform.

How people respond to space and nature is what Morse is interested in, and her technique, which compresses time, allows the viewer to see the natural differently, in a way not commonly seen.

“Breathing Room” will be featured next in the Netherlands at the Middelburg Center for Transatlantic Studies, where Morse will also teach animation and film.

“Sometimes people don’t think of Grand Valley faculty outside of GVSU,” Morse said, though with her success and continued work in film, Morse said she is still happy just to engage people with her art.

When she talks about her artistic process, there is an obviously passionate tone. Morse said the process of figuring out the visual components and how to manipulate them still remains an interesting challenge for her. From small sketches to a finished film, Morse always considers the viewer.

“I ask myself, ‘Is this something I would like to see over and over again?’ If it has some kind of power I will continue to work it,” she said.

Her next work involves the upcoming 50th anniversary of GVSU.

“It will be a sort of celebration of the landscape of GVSU,” Morse said. “It will feature the growth of the university over the last 50 years.”

To learn more about Morse and her work, visit http://www.deannamorse.com.

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