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Gratz Biography


Joan Gratz is an Academy Award winning director of animated short films and commercials. Her films range in content through painterly expressions of poetry, improvised abstraction, and animated social documentary. The technique she pioneered is “Claypainting.” Working directly before the camera, she applies bits of clay, blends colors and etches fine lines to create a seamless flow of images.


In Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase, images of the human face are transformed to communicate the graphic style and emotional content of major 20th century art works. This animated history of art won the Oscar in 1992.


Joan developed animated painting when an architecture student at the University of Oregon, then shifted from paint to clay while working with Will Vinton Studios. During that time, her work included design and animation for the Academy Award Nominees Return to Oz, Rip Van Winkle, and The Creation.


She established her own studio, Gratzfilm, in 1987. In addition to films she is the author of Downward-facing Frog and My Tesla. Joan has served on major film festival juries in Asia, Europe, and North America.


Joan lives on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon.

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