Karen Aqua
Home Film List Biography News Sample Animation  
Click on the images for information about each film:

Twist of Fate
Twist of Fate
Ground Zero/Sacred Ground
Ground Zero/
Sacred Ground
Perpetual Motion
Perpetual Motion
Nine Lives
Nine Lives
Yours for the Taking
Yours for the Taking
Heavenly Bodies
Heavenly Bodies

During her too-short career, Karen Aqua (1954-2011) created animated films exploring the themes of ritual, journeys, transformation, and the human spirit. Much of her work reflected her interest in symbols, mythology, and prehistoric and tribal cultures, and included elements of rhythm, dance, and music.

Her award-winning films have been screened nationally and internationally, at film festivals, museums, and universities. Aqua’s animation appears regularly on “Sesame Street.”

Karen Aqua's films are now available online here!

Thanks to animator and awesome human Joanna Priestley for creating a Wikipedia page for Karen.

A program of Karen's films with live soundtracks performed by the Ken Field Alto Saxophone Quartet + Drums was presented to a sold-out audience at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston on Friday 3/22/2019. A radio feature about the program was aired on NPR Boston affiliate WBUR's The ARTery, and Greg Cook featured the event in his blog Wonderland.

Karen Aqua'a films are now held by the Harvard Film Archive, and are searchable via the Harvard University Library catalog here. There are several blog entries that refer to Karen's work here and here. The Harvard Film Archive presented a special screening of her work on April 9th, 2016 at Carpenter Center in recognition of the 5th anniversary of her passing.

British animator and animation writer Edwin Rostron featured Karen Aqua's life and work in a wonderful piece on his experimental animation blog "Edge of Frame".

The complete DVD compilation of Karen Aqua's animated films is unfortunately sold out and no longer available, but her films are now available online here.

Reviews of the collection of Karen's films appear here:

Animated In Every Sense of the Word

Reeling Review's Review of 'Animated Films by Karen Aqua'

'Animated Films by Karen Aqua' Contain a Vision Marked by Music

Animated Films by Karen Aqua

Microcinema's DVD Animated Films of Karen Aqua explores the work of a unique, passionate artist

There was a special screening event at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA (Animation by Karen Aqua) on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Karen's passing. This program was hosted by Ken Field, with an introduction by Dr. Ursula Matulonis, DFCI, and the proceeds benefited the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at Dana Farber Cancer Institute..

There have been tribute screenings of Karen's work at international film and animation festivals in Boston, Woods Hole, Denver, Hiroshima, and Annecy, and there will be several screenings of a program of Karen's films at the upcoming Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Scenes from Karen's 1997 film "Ground Zero/Sacred Ground" were recently shown on Brazilian national television in conjunction with the Uranium Film Festival.

We are saddened to report Karen's peaceful passing on Monday, May 30th, 2011.

There was a Memorial Tribute to Karen on Sunday July 10th at the Center for Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA.

There was a major retrospective screening of the films of Karen Aqua at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston on Sunday afternoon, September 25th, 2011, at 3pm.

Drawings, video, and sound from her final film "Taxonomy" (2011) were shown at Brickbottom Gallery, Somerville, MA, from June 30 - July 10. An installation of this work will be shown in Roswell, NM at the Roswell Museum & Art Center from December 17, 2011 - January 27, 2012.

Here is the obituary from the Boston Globe.

Here is a pdf of the obituary from the Boston Globe.

Here is a pdf of the obituary from the Boston Herald.

Here are two very worthy organizations that were so important to her. Please feel free to contribute to them directly in Karen's name.

Roswell Artist-in-Residence Foundation
409 East College Blvd
Roswell, NM 88201

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at DFCI under the direction of Dr.    Ursula Matulonis
Dana Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215-5450
(Checks should be written to the entire first line)

“Aqua is an enormously gifted artist and animator, and her compositions constantly thrill, with their sweeping, expanding, and swirling sense of musicality, drama, and composition. Her visual inventiveness is coupled with an emotional intelligence and sensitivity”

—David Finkelstein, filmthreat.com

“Aqua has a distinctive style and vision of her own..., coupled with a dancer’s sense of movement and a musician’s sense of rhythm.”

— Leah A. Sullivan, Animation Magazine

“Aqua ... is clearly one of the finest animation artists in the country.”

— Michael Blowen, The Boston Globe

“Through the years, Aqua’s animation has become seamless, her imagery more personal and lyrical, and her messages more profound and affecting.”

— Lois Tarlow, Art New England

“Her animation—sometimes representational, sometimes abstract—seems an attempt to engage the subconscious mind as well as to provide whimsy for the ruling forces of intellection. In Aqua's work, agreed-upon realities are often shown to be gossamer-thin and arbitrary as her images slide, ellide and transform themselves often charmingly, often disturbingly.”

— Bob Green, Honolulu Weekly

“An artist who uses sources as diverse as African tribal dances, southwestern Indian cave drawings, the work of Joseph Campbell and the pace of urban life. Aqua creates films that are vibrant and alive with color and image.”

— David Kinder, Webster University

“Much of the Karen Aqua universe is populated with creatures spawned from a mating between Matisse cutouts and carvings on Incan tombs. Made of neon-bright colors and sharp angles, her exuberant stick figures give off an energy that’s neither entirely human nor entirely animal. What’s more, they’re caught up in a natural system that may be sinister, but never lacks a sense of humor.”

— Robin Dougherty, Boston Phoenix

“Children across the country get up and dance next to their cereal bowls when Sesame Street airs Karen Aqua’s animated segments. It would be hard to stay still as bejeweled Mardi Gras figures jive across the small screen, flashing numbers at the audience, accompanied by...Revolutionary Snake Ensemble—a band that’s led (off-screen) by her saxophone-tooting husband, Ken Field.”

— Barbara Ensor, New York Magazine

Ken Field
E-mail: ken@kenfield.org

Copyright © 2003—2019 Karen Aqua & Ken Field