11/20/19 Digitalia

The “Digitalia” exhibit, located in the BCC, features the work of animation artist Jeron Braxton. Students can interact with the animator’s work with a computer in the corner of the exhibit.

A Hoosier artist is using his exhibit at Purdue to promote animation and gaming to those underrepresented in the industry.

The Black Cultural Center’s Digitalia exhibit highlights the surreal and layered animations of Jeron Braxton, a 24-year-old animator originally from Indianapolis.

“Braxton is an award-winning emerging artist of color taking the animation world by storm,” BCC program manager Danicia Malone said in an email. “We decided to feature his work within the Purdue community to share the importance and realities of careers built with both technology and creativity in mind.”

Braxton started animating when he was 15 by downloading Blender, a free animation program, and watching as many YouTube tutorials as he could find, he said during a panel.

An avid gamer, Braxton started out by creating games but later turned to animation.

“Eventually I pivoted more toward animation because I fancy myself as an artist, and whatever I do it’s usually with a conceptual foundation, so it’s easier to get my ideas off just with animation,” he said.

Braxton said it’s not necessary to have a powerful computer or stunning graphics to make a great animation. He shared how he created a short film about police violence and digital-induced loneliness titled “Glucose” on a friend’s $300 computer.

Glucose won the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Award for Animation in 2018.

“It’s more about your personal style and what do you have to say, and that will go really far and that’s what people have been turning up with and going crazy with,” Braxton said.

Braxton said he needs an outlet for everything in his head, as he’s “got a lot to say, and you know, I feel like my head would explode if I didn’t create.”

“That’s just me, you gotta find what drives you forward,” Braxton said.

Much of Braxton’s work includes political themes. Prior to the 2016 election, the companies that used his animations usually cut out the political references. After the election, many people in the industry realized the need for different voices, according to Braxton. Since then, he said his career has been blowing up.

“The BCC is all about showcasing the black experience from across the diaspora,” Malone said. “Recognizing that our experience is interwoven into the fabric of everything, including areas that society may not realize, such as gaming and animation.”

The exhibit lives in a room with one of Braxton’s animations projected on one wall and a computer in the corner where the visitor can interact with some of his work.

“Our exhibit ‘Digitalia,’ which means ‘binary,’ is meant to show that the gaming world isn’t binary,” Malone said. “It’s a space for everyone.”

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