Carmen D'Avino was a pioneer in animated short film, becoming one of the leading figures in the avant-garde film movement of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, his films regularly seen at Cinema 16, the most successful and influential membership film society in North American history. His work in oils and sculpture have achieved similar success, part of his always expanding experimentation into shape, color and form.
As a teenager in Connecticut, D'Avino traded an old hunting rifle for a Kodak movie camera. The swap was life altering and the beginning of D'Avino's adventurous, life long journey into the world of art.
Beginning in the late 1930s with his studies at the Art Students League in New York City, and influenced by his teachers Robert Brackman and Andre l'Hote, D'Avino gravitated toward films and painting. His work with film led to a World War II job as a combat photographer that climaxed with his filming the Normandy Invasion and the Liberation of Paris.
D'Avino remained in Paris after the war and was the first American to use the GI Bill to study abroad. He enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
While studying oil painting, D'Avino was stimulated by film shorts, espcially Alain Resnais's 1948 film, "Van Gogh", which he saw in cine-clubs in Paris and, in 1950, won the Academy Award for the best documentary. He began to experiment with film, documenting the experiences of postwar France.
In 1947 D'Avino met his future wife, Helena Elfing of Finland, and in 1948, after an extended tour hitchhiking together across Italy, he followed her to India where she had accepted the position of tutor to the son of the newly posted French Ambassador to India.
D'Avino had hoped to continue his art studies in India under
the GI Bill, but was unable to find a suitable school. His
time in India proved to be extremely educational, nonetheless.
Henri Cartier-Bresson became one of his companions, and their
conversations about photography were both enlivened and enlightening.
D'Avino also had the opportunity to meet and discuss film with
Jean Renoir, who was in Delhi to film the movie, "The
River". Their conversations centered on the future
He continued his painting and exhibited twice, once in Delhi
and once in Bombay. The contrast of strong colors found in
D'Avino's work comes out of his time spent in India. He was
influenced by Indian miniature paintings, most of all from
their ornamental elements and areas covered in pure colors.
The same style is apparent in his film animations of the 1960s
and 1970s. The contrast of colors remains always lively in
his films, where red, orange and yellow details are presented
together as a contrast with the cold colors, green and blue.
After a stay in India of
In the spring of 1950, the sculptor, Robert Rosenwald left
his small studio at number 8, rue St. Julian le Pauvre, located
directly across the street from one of the oldest churches
in Paris, and diagonally across the Seine from the towers of
Notre Dame, and turned it over to his friend Hayword Bill Rivers.
Rivers in turn invited a number of his artists friends to join
him in turning the studio into a gallery, the
D'Avino continued his art studies by enrolling at the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere, and in 1951 returned to North America, and eventually to New York City. He bought himself a 16 mm Pathe camera and made a short film called "Sunday Afternoon", which won first prize in a competition sponsored by the Creative Film Foundation. The honor of receiving a Creative Film Award was significantly enhanced when Salvador Dali presented it to D'Avino, who was now embarking on a career in film that would last the rest of his life.
D'Avino's film making flourished during the personally, politically and artistically liberating years of the 1960s. His films were shown and awarded honors at film festivals in New York, San Francisco, Montevideo, Uruguay; London, England; Oberhausen, Germany; Annecy, France; Mamaia, Rumania; Krakow, Poland; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Melbourne, Australia.
His film "Pianissimo was selected to open the first night of performances at the first international film festival of New York's newly constructed Lincoln Center in 1963. In 1983, when the Center's film festival celebrated its 20th anniversary, D'Avino was honored once more when the festival again began with his film, Pianissimo.
D'Avino's body of work includes films for corporations including IBM, Time-Life, and the New York Stock Exchange. He completed a series of short, fully animated films for the Children's Television Workshop including Happy, Sunny, Funny, Library, flowers, and House and numerous title animations and trailers for movies, including "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich".
As he grew older, D'Avino challenged himself by working in new, and to him yet untried, materials. The sculptures in wood gave way to carvings of stone blocks weighing many tons. Marble led to limestone and then to granite. When in his 80s he began to produce films on his newly acquired Apple computer and he marveled at the relative ease and affordability that today's film makers enjoyed: "When I think of all the images I didn't record because I couldn't afford the film, and see how cheaply it can be accomplished today, I am amazed and somewhat saddened that it came too late for me. I know, though, that some young person will use this new medium in a unique and exciting way.
No matter the medium, D'Avino transports viewers of his art
to a whimsical, non-threatening, yet distracting place where
eyes and minds are never at rest. What they see is pleasing,
sometimes comical, but disturbing, with the ability to agitate.
With the grain of woods or his palette of vivid colors, D'Avino
can engulfs people in a tapestry of intricate designs, rich
with detail and texture, which grow with organic
His success at invigorating those who view his work is said
to come from the
D'Avino believed all you need is food, work and love. "To
keep busy is a marvelous answer to some dull existence. Life
is a great adventure no matter what you do. Life is a joy".