With funding from the The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program, the Library Company is excited to begin a collaborative project with artist Jennifer Levonian. Over the next few months, Jennifer will be creating a video animation inspired by the library’s collections. She has chosen to explore the topic of women who disguised themselves as men and fought as soldiers in the Civil War. Her video will become part of the library’s upcoming exhibition, John A. McAllister’s Civil War: The Philadelphia Home Front opening in May. This blog will chronicle her process of creating the video and will include postings from Jennifer and library staff working with her. We welcome your comments.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Video & Press

If you're not able to visit the Library Company to see the exhibit, you can watch the finished animation on Vimeo:

 Also, I'd like to share some recent press. This project was mentioned in the New York Times and on the Art Blog.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reception & Talk!

This Thursday we'll screen the animation and I'll discuss my creative process. Civil War re-enactor Wendy Ramsburg, the subject of my animation, will also speak. Please join us!

Thursday, June 2, 2011—Reception at 5:30 p.m., Program at 6:00 The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Saturday, May 7, 2011


1,676 still photographs of 42 painted backgrounds + dozens of puppets = 1 completed 9-minute animation!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I thought I'd show you some shots of my animation backdrops and puppets. To animate facial expressions, hand gestures, and other motion sequences, I make series of replaceable parts. I place each piece on a painted backdrop, snap a photo, swap the piece for another, and repeat. Here are a few examples from the upcoming animation.

The first image is a scene from my interview with Wendy the Civil War reenactor, the second will show a car entering a snowy driveway, and the third image will become a man poking a straw into a takeout cup of orange juice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Laying Out Exhibition Cases

Reference Librarian Linda August and Curator of Prints and Photographs Sarah Weatherwax are collaborating on a small exhibition to accompany Jennifer Levonian's animated video. Women not only fought as men in the Civil War, they also concealed their gender to fight alongside men during the American Revolution and in other military conflicts. Women went to sea as male sailors, played theatrical roles written for male characters, and in one instance an African-American woman escaped from slavery disguised as a white man. The mannish woman, as well as the feminine man, was satirized in caricatures throughout the 19th century. Using material from both the book and graphic collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the exhibition will explore cross dressing and gender identity during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


March is flying by and I've been busy painting the backgrounds for my animation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wendy in Disguise

As I continued to read about the topic of women soldiers in the Civil War, I learned that there are a number of women that disguise themselves as men to portray male soldiers in Civil War re-enactments. This discovery led me to the panhandle of West Virginia on a snowy January day to interview Wendy Ramsburg. Wendy has been portraying the role of a Confederate soldier in re-enactments since 1984. Our discussion inspired a portion of my animation. I made this painting of a photograph of Wendy in uniform.