Martha Colburn is a filmmaker and multimedia artist. Born in Pennsylvania, she now lives and works between Holland and New York City. Although Ms. Colburn's style is unmistakably her own, the scope of her work is broad and difficult to encapsulate; her expertise (especially in stop-motion animation) have led to teaching, speaking, and lectures at film forums and universities worldwide.
A 1994 BFA graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Colburn also studied for two years at Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, earning an MFA equivalent in 2002.
As she began to make films in 1994, Ms. Colburn performed live with a combination of 16mm and Super-8 projectors, using mirrors, colored gels, strobing devices, and hand-painted screens, with the live accompaniment of musicians. Initially, the majority of Ms. Colburn's films were videos for musical groups in which she and her friends played. The remainder of the 1990s saw Ms. Colburn appearing in film festivals and workfilm tours, networking and presenting her films across Europe and the United States. In 1997, Ms. Colburn received her first awards: the Kenneth Patchen Award at the National Poetry Film Festival, and the Jury's Choice Award at the Super Super-8 Film Festival; the following year, she won the Jury's Choice Award for No-Budget Filmmaking at the International Hamburg Short Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Concurrently, she worked as a visiting Professor of Animation at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1999, she received the honor of Best Animated Film at in both New York and Chicago Underground Film Festivals.
Ms. Colburn left Baltimore in 2000 to study at Rijksakademie, assisted with a grant from Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science. During her time there, she began producing multimedia art installations. in addition to her continued filmmaking. In 2002, she won two awards—the Sarah Lawrence College Film Award, and Best Animated Film at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Following graduation from Rijksakademie that same year, Ms. Colburn opted to remain in the Netherlands, finding that it afforded her opportunities and resources to explore process and possibilities. Presenting in both solo and group exhibitions (and receiving an award in 2003 for Best Animated Film at the New York Underground Film Festival), Ms. Colburn also resumed teaching, as a visiting artist/lecturer (Statens Kunstakademi in Oslo, Norway), a workshop host (Nanjing Art Institute in Nanjing, China), or a tutor (Dutch Art Institute in Enschede, the Netherlands).
During this time, Ms. Colburn's films grew more explicitly humanistic and politically expressive, eschewing the total abstraction of her earlier films, and gravitating toward specific social concerns without compromising her distinct style. She received a Stadsdeel de Baarsjes Grant, as well as support from the Dutch Film Fund, in 2004, and saw significant gains in the public profile of her work. Ms. Colburn provided animation for the feature film The Devil and Daniel Johnson, which won the award of Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Particularly notable was the induction of Ms. Colburn's highly topical Cosmetic Emergency to the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
As a participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council art residency program, in 2005, she began collaborating with musicians (including some former cohorts) in what would become an integral part of her presentation: live accompaniment to her films. These live sound/ musical and film explorations resulted in performances at Museum of Art & Design, The Knitting Factory, Rotterdam Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, artists space and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2008-2010 she created commissions from Creative Time (for the Times Square video screen), Performa ( NY performance art festival) for which she made the futurist themed film 'One & One is Life', Electric Literature for a film by the author Diana Wagman, and music video for Serj Tankian, Deerhoof, Friendly Rich and They Might Be Giants.
In 2010 her film Triumph of the Wild was included in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ms. Colburn's work is also included in the collections of Mlle Monique Burger (Switzerland), Frans Hals Museum De Hallen (Netherlands), Collection Stedelijik Museum (Amsterdam), Chadha Art Collection (London/Amsterdam) And Dimitris Gigourtakis (Greece), Laurence Dreyfus (Paris), Collection Haak (Eindhoven, Netherlands), Ben & Irene Krohn (USA)