Stefan Gruber wants you to join him in an animated world where hollow glass men learn to meditate, a mute liberator is granted three wishes, and cartoon gods share gardening tips high atop mountains.
The Seattle-based animator is currently on tour showcasing his latest performance art animation piece, Both Words, which he'll be presenting at The Trunk Space on July 19.
The highlight of the evening will be a 10-minute cartoon featuring a live musical score performed by local artist Good Amount, and live vocal score improvised by Gruber. And because of its improvisational nature, anything can happen.
"It changes every time we perform," Gruber says. "There's an overall concept behind it, but all the script just comes from improvisation, and it's been revised because I've done it so many times. It's never actually been on paper."
Gruber says he's been animating since first grade, and currently teaches animation at Nova Alternative High School in Seattle. While he's reluctant to reveal what Both Worlds is about, he does admit that there are certain autobiographical elements.
"It has a lot of meaning for me," says Gruber. "The liberator is absolutely autobiographical, but so are the hollow glass men who are fragile, and the flowers that move in a certain way. It's essentially all a self-portrait."
While it's unclear what facets of Gruber's life are represented in the self-portrait that is Both Worlds, it's safe to assume that his infatuation with dance is reflected in the flowers.
Gruber's mother was a modern dancer, and her dance partner was an oil painter that taught Gruber how to paint at an early age. The artist believes that animation and dance are quite similar.
"They're both about movement," says Gruber. "Because animation is about movement, and dance is about movement, it actually makes them, in my opinion, more related than animation is to drawing."
Like dance, Gruber's best animation happens after long hours of practice. He says that if he's been animating for about six hours, the seventh, eighth, and ninth hour tend to be "really fruitful."
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Speaking of fruitful, Gruber's tour is more of a passion project than it is a steady source of income.
"I'm asking for donations on the tour, and those go towards gas and food while I'm on the tour," he says. "The donations I get on the road tend to be just enough, and if I end up having to put $100 of my own money at the end of the trip, it's so worth it. It's like an incredible vacation where I get to share this work with hundreds of people."
Catch Stefan Gruber's Both Worlds on Tuesday, July 19, at The Trunk Space.