An accomplished director, artist, and animator, Joan Gratz pioneered the animation technique known as claypainting. Working with bits of clay she 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 subtly transformed to communicate the graphic style and emotional content of key artworks of the 20th century, creating an animated history of art. This film won the Academy Award in 1992.

Joan developed her animated painting when an architecture student, then shifted from paint to clay while working with Will Vinton Studios from 1976 to 1987. During that time, her work included design and animation for the Academy Award nominees Return to Oz, Rip Van Winkle, and The Creation, which was the first film to feature claypainting.

Since establishing her own studio, Gratzfilm, in 1987, she has received many honors for her personal and commercial work, including a Clio for Coca Cola Heartland, a Bronze Lion at Cannes for Knorr Recipe Sauces, and First Prize at the London International Film Festival for United Airlines Natural.

The Joan C. Gratz lecture is organized with the support of the American Cultural Center.