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Maureen Selwood

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Maureen Selwood
Selwood at 2021 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Born1946 (age 77–78)
EducationCorcoran Gallery of Art,
College of New Rochelle,
New York University Tisch School of the Arts

Maureen Selwood (born 1946)[1] is an Irish-born American filmmaker and visual artist whose works employ simple line drawings, marriages between animation and live footage, digital projections and installations. She is a pioneer in the field of independent and experimental animation.[2] She has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1992), and is the first animation artist to be awarded the Rome Prize (2002) in Visual Arts from the American Academy in Rome.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Maureen Selwood was born in 1946 in Dublin, Ireland;[1] to an Irish mother, Helene Neylon and a British father, John Leslie Selwood. She has a fraternal twin sister, Helen. Selwood's mother, the youngest of twelve, went to England along with many of her sisters to help with the war effort during WWII. Shortly after arriving in London Selwood's mother met John Leslie, whom she married a few months later. John first went to America in 1941 with the British Air Ministry to work in the administration with the Lend Lease program. When the war was over his wife and children emigrated to the United States.[4]

The family eventually settled in Washington D.C., where Selwood took art classes at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.[when?] As a high school student during John F. Kennedy's presidency, Selwood was invited to work with Eunice Shriver in her efforts to study models of mentorship through Camp Shriver for the founding of the Special Olympics in 1962 and 1963.[5] As a young undergraduate at College of New Rochelle, Selwood worked as a volunteer for Daniel Berrigan in New York City, tutoring in Harlem.[6]

Selwood started working in film in 1968, when she enrolled in New York University Tisch School of the Arts.[7] After graduating with her MFA degree from NYU on a full scholarship, Selwood joined the independent animation community that was forming in New York City in the 1970s.[8][9]


During the years Selwood lived in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s she produced the independent animation films Odalisque, The Rug, This Is Just To Say and Pearls.[10] Selwood is considered an integral part of the movement which evolved animation as a personal art form.[11]

In 1991, after Selwood moved to Los Angeles, Jules Engel, founder of the Experimental Animation Program at CalArts, invited Selwood to join the faculty. She went on to produce the films: Flying Circus: An Imagined Memoir; Hail Mary; Mistaken Identity; Drawing Lessons and A Modern Convenience.[12] Flying Circus premiered at the Venice Film Festival: La Biennale di Venezia and is inspired by Parade, the 1917 ballet by Picasso, Satie and Cocteau. Selwood plays with a childhood memory and uses animation to illustrate episodes of shifting tensions inside a circus tent.[13]

In 1987, Selwood designed and directed animations for David Grubin Productions:The Colors of Hope, a documentary for Amnesty International about political prisoners in Argentina[14] and I Started Early, based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, for PBS's Poetry Everywhere (2007). In 2002, Selwood was the first animation artist to receive a Rome Prize Fellowship.[15] As a Visual Arts Fellow at the American Academy of Rome, she created the installation, As The Veil Lifts, that went on to be exhibited at Frac Picardie in France alongside William Kentridge and Tabiamo. While in Rome Selwood collaborated with the poet James Galvin, who wrote the introduction for the book, Green Is For Privacy, a posthumous collaboration with her mother using her mother's drawings and writing about growing up with her mother's schizophrenia.[16]

As You Desire Me (2009) is a film and installation in response to the Iraq War. It uses surrealistic designed characters in real settings in the city of Rome[17] and opened at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall in Los Angeles.[18] It was included in the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates in 2013.[19][20]

Selwood has created digital projections in collaboration with Sardono Dance Theater and Jennifer Tipton for Rain Coloring Forest at REDCAT (2010)[21] and for the Metropolitan Opera's production of the opera Werther, by Jules Massenet, with Wendall K. Harrington (2014).[22] In 2015, Selwood's collaboration with the composer, David Rosenboom, How Much Better if Plymouth Rock Had Landed on the Pilgrims, (Section VII, Impression), screened at the Whitney Museum[23] at its new location in downtown New York. The role of the composer in her work is an integral part of her process. She has collaborated with composers Michael Riesman for Odalisque and The Rug; Rhys Chatham for The Box; Martin Bresnik for This Is Just To Say; Miroslav Tadic for Flying Circus: An Imagined Memoir; Anna Oxygen for As You Desire Me; Jesse Gilbert and Tanya Haden for Drawing Lessons; and Archie Carey and Odeya Nini for A Modern Convenience. The poet Mark Strand performed the voice over for the film Drawing Lessons.

Selwood has had solo drawing exhibits at Track 16 (2010) and the Rosamund Felsen Gallery (2015) titled Sounding the Note of A.[24] Sounding the Note of A featured transfer prints on paper, as well as large sculptural pieces inspired by the balaclavas of the band Pussy Riot.[25] The show explored themes of treason and the heroism of feminine resistance throughout history.[26] Also in 2015, Selwood wrote and directed 29 Cross Examinations which premiered at Automata Performance Space in Chinatown. This was a hybrid performance piece featuring animation, movement, and text from the transcriptions of the trial of Joan of Arc.[27]

Selwood lives in Los Angeles and continues to teach at the California Institute of the Arts on the faculty of the School of Film/Video in the Experimental Animation program.[28]


Selwood is known for developing a pictographic language of interiorized and unconscious drawings. Her work features drawing often in relation to photographic elements or live film footage.[29][30] Her work is often rooted in art history, mythology, and women on the fringe.[31] Her work deals with states of mutability in the human psyche, film noir, dada and surrealism. Her films have been influenced by and compared to Matisse's Fauvism, Cocteau, Fellini and Aldrich, as well as her longtime friend and mentor Jules Engel.[32] She has been credited for helping to challenge conventional notions of women as objects of desire in art history.[33][34][35]

Filmography and notable works[edit]

Odalisque: Three Fantasies in Pursuit (1980)[36][37]
The Rug (1985)[38]
This is Just to Say (1987)
Pearls (1988)
Flying Circus: An Imagined Memoir (1995)
Hail Mary (1998)
Mistaken Identity (2001)
Drawing Lessons (2006)
I Started Early (2007)
As The Veil Lifts (2008)
As You Desire Me (2009)
A Modern Convenience (2012)
Sounding the Note of A (2015)

Screenings and installations[edit]

Selwood's work has been shown internationally, including Sharjah Biennial (2013), with retrospectives at Se-Ma-For International Film Festival (2014), National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India (2013), REDCAT, and ANIMAC International Animation Festival,[39] Spain (2003). Her films have been screened at Annecy Animation Film Festival, Venice Biennale, New York Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Centre Georges Pompidou, Ann Arbor Film Festival, MOMA, SXSW, Ottawa Film Festival, Cardiff Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, Dallas Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival Chicago Film Festival, and many others. Installations include Tevereterno (Rome, 2006), River to Festival (New York, 2008), Frac Picardie, (France, 2008), American Academy in Rome (2003), MAK Center for Art and Architecture, (Los Angeles, 2001) and others.[40]


The Academy Film Archive has preserved two of Selwood's films: Odalisque, in 2017, and The Rugs, in 2019.[41]

Awards and grants[edit]

Publications and writings[edit]

In 2008, Selwood published the book Green Is For Privacy, with an introduction by the poet James Galvin.[47]

Selwood is a featured artist in the 2013 book ANIMATION SKETCHBOOKS by Laura Heit; 2006 The Fundamentals of Animation by Paul Wells;[48][49] 2003, Animac Magazine: Writings on Animation by Giannalberto Bendazzi, George Griffin and Mario Sesti; 1996 The Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques by Richard Taylor; 1994 Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation by Gianalberto Bendazzi and 1988 Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art edited by Robert Russett and Cecile Starr.

Selwood contributed to the compilation book Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women;[50] Frames by George Griffin;[51] Jennifer Heath's The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore and Politics.[52]


  1. ^ a b Bendazzi, Giannalberto (2015-11-06). Animation: A World History: Volume III: Contemporary Times. CRC Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-317-51988-1.
  2. ^ Bendazzi, Giannalberto (2015-11-06). Animation: A World History: Volume III: Contemporary Times. CRC Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-317-51988-1.
  3. ^ Prescott, Dana (Fall 2003). "American Academy in Rome - Society of Fellow News" (PDF) – via www.sof-aarome.org.
  4. ^ "The Washington Post Obituary". The Washington Post. March 10, 1987. pp. Section B8.
  5. ^ "Camp Shriver - Eunice Kennedy Shriver". www.eunicekennedyshriver.org. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  6. ^ "Directory of Tutorial Projects" (PDF). United States National Tutoring Association: Tutorial Assistance Center. US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; Office of Education. 1968.
  7. ^ Russett, Robert; Starr, Cecile (1988-03-21). Experimental Animation. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-0-306-80314-7.
  8. ^ Griffin, George (1978). Frames: A Selection of Drawings and Statements by Independent American Animators. Griffin, George. ASIN B000GWZ4FS.
  9. ^ Russett, Robert (1988). Experimental Animations: Origins of a New Art. Hachette Books. p. 19. ISBN 0-306-80314-3.
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (1986-12-31). "SCREEN: NEW AMERICAN ANIMATION". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (1987-01-18). "FILM VIEW; IN ANIMATION FOR CHILDREN, THE OLD DAYS WERE BETTER". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  12. ^ Selwood, Maureen (2002). "Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts". Animac: Writings on Animation. No. 1.
  13. ^ Selwood, Maureen; Tadic, Miroslav (2014-01-01). Flying circus: an imagined memoir. OCLC 892742455.
  14. ^ "Movie Review - Las Madres The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  15. ^ "California Institute of the Arts". www.calarts.edu.
  16. ^ Selwood, Maureen (2007). Green Is For Privacy. Maureen Selwood. ISBN 978-0-9776275-1-6.
  17. ^ pfraser (16 December 2011). "Maureen Selwood". REDCAT. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  18. ^ "A 2009 C.O.L.A. Visual Art Award (and Individual Artists Exhibit) for Maureen Selwood FAAR'03". Retrieved 31 October 2015.
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  20. ^ "Art News".
  21. ^ smith (3 August 2010). "Sardono Dance Theater and Jennifer Tipton". REDCAT. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  22. ^ "The Metropolitan Opera" (PDF).
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  24. ^ "Exhibitions". Rosamund Felsen. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  25. ^ "Power, feminism and giant, knitted balaclavas: artist Maureen Selwood's Pussy Riot tribute". Los Angeles Times. 13 November 2015. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  26. ^ Wood, Eve (November 5, 2015). "Maureen Selwood". Artillery Magazine.
  27. ^ "Datebook: Taking on Jackie Kennedy, videos of animal life, the trials of Joan of Arc". Los Angeles Times. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  28. ^ "Maureen Selwood | CalArts Faculty/Staff Directory". directory.calarts.edu. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  29. ^ The Animation Book: A Complete Guide to Animated Filmmaking--From Flip-Books to Sound Cartoons to 3- D Animation (Rev Sub ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. 1998-11-01. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-517-88602-1.
  30. ^ Taylor, Richard (Formerly Professor of A. Taylor Richard (1999-01-01). The Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques. London: Focal Pr. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-0-240-51576-2.
  31. ^ Moritz, William (1996). Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (ed.). "Animation in the Post Industrial Era". The Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press: 551–558.
  32. ^ Chevat, Zoe (April 25, 2012). "Maureen Selwood Takes An Imaginary Voyage". Animation World Network.
  33. ^ Rabinovitz, Lauren (1987). Soloman, Charles (ed.). "Women Animators and Women's Experiences". The Art of the Animated Image: An Anthology. American Film Institute. ISBN 99914-7-533-8.
  34. ^ McKenna, Kristine (1995-04-02). "Women Break Out of the Cel Block". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  35. ^ "Maureen Selwood | GREAT WOMEN ANIMATORS". greatwomenanimators.com. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  36. ^ Maslin, Janet (1986-12-31). "SCREEN: NEW AMERICAN ANIMATION". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  37. ^ Bendazzi, Giannalberto (1994). Cartoons One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation, Animation in the United States. John Libbey Cinema and Animation. p. 256. ISBN 0-86196-445-4.
  38. ^ Wells, Paul (2006-06-01). Fundamentals of Animation. Lausanne: Fairchild Books AVA. ISBN 978-2-940373-02-4.
  39. ^ "Animac_Magazine".
  41. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  42. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation - Maureen Selwood". gf.org. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  43. ^ ":: CCI :: ARC Grants ::". cciarts.org. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  44. ^ Pagel, David (2009-06-02). "COLA 2009 an accessible brew in Barnsdall Park". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  45. ^ "Maureen Selwood". jeromefdn.org. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  46. ^ "California Institute of the Arts".
  47. ^ "MAUREEN SELWOOD: in conversation with Susan Morgan | Skylight Books". www.skylightbooks.com.
  48. ^ Wells, Paul (2006-06-01). Fundamentals of Animation. Lausanne: Fairchild Books AVA. pp. 141–145. ISBN 978-2-940373-02-4.
  49. ^ Heit, Laura (2013-07-23). Animation Sketchbooks. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1-4521-1970-0.
  50. ^ Stillman, Deanne; Beatts, Anne P. (1976-01-01). Titters: The first collection of humor by women (1st Collier Books ed.). Collier Books. ISBN 978-0-02-040700-3.
  51. ^ Griffin, George (1979-01-01). Frames: a selection of drawings and statements by independent American animators, assembled in New York City, 1978. Griffin.
  52. ^ The Veil: Women Writers on Its History, Lore, and Politics (1 ed.). University of California Press. 2008-07-02. ISBN 978-0-520-25518-0.

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