Saturday, July 10, 2010

Outting Me Weird on Etsy

For the record, it doesn't weird me out at all. In fact, all i can say is, it's about #*$! time.

Just checked the Etsy before bed, to discover one of my pieces, "Imogene and the Golden Lotus Puppet Show" was featured on Etsy's "Keep It Weird" Blog. How awesome is that?! I mean, i've known my work was weird my whole life. But to have it acknowledged with such eloquence by a blogger on the Etsy Admin Team ten days into my tenure there is just delicious. Plus, today is my Mom's birthday! So, all together now:
"Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear WeirdoDotersMom,
Happy Birthday to YOU!!!!" (Love you Mom!!)

A little bit about Imogene, since she's just made the Weirdness Shortlist (and up to now, i'd kept the weirder aspects of her nature under my hat). Certain of my anthropomorphic figures seem to channel specific energies, and like any weird artist, when that happens, i just have to go with it. Imogene is such a character. She's a Sino-American-feminist-martriarch-chimpanzee who decided to repurpose her footbinding slippers before imposing their energy on subsequent generations--as puppets. She's the ultimate "doter." Don't ask me where these things come from, i don't know. But they take on a life of their own, and Imogene was no exception. Her namesake, Imogene Coca, was one of my favorite comediennes: something about the elastic expressiveness of her face and the way she used it to make subtle statements about the human condition made me want to laugh and cry simultaneously. When i finished the facial features of the chimp, not yet knowing exactly what her character would be, i thought, "Hm. Looks a bit like Imogene Coca," --who was still alive at the time. It just happened. I swear. Not premeditated. These things never are. And i mean no disrespect to the late Ms. Coca, whom i find beautiful. I'm an anthropomorphic sculptor and a storyteller. I've done self-portraits as dog, pig, fish, sheep, and mule. I love animals; as they are in reality and as metaphors for aspects of our spiritual and natural mysteries as fellow earthlings. I hope Ms. Coca's spirit would ultimately be honored by the reference... and i'll tell you why.

I happened to be reading something about traditional footbinding slippers somewhere at the time; i remember seeing some naƬve posting on eBay: someone had these ornate footbinding slippers up for auction advertised as antique baby booties. The irony of such a perception was too poignant to disregard. Since i had 'chimp' on the brain and was even then trolling through my cultural lexicon trying to imagine how to costume a chimp for maximum effect, the footbinding slippers just hit me, because chimps, of course, have opposable thumbs on their feet. Who better to exemplify the dramatic hyperbole of a foot deprived of its primary function by the very embellishment which adorns it and elevates it to a fetish? As is usually the case with my more demanding sculptures, the matter had decided itself and we were off and running, so to speak.

But i was a little confused by the Imogene Coca riff in this project. Why her, with this?
Footbinding is hardly comedy. Why her now? So i started looking up old skits she did on "Your Show of Shows" with Sid Caesar, and found the one where she plays the photographer's wife, and he poses her for various shots and she freezes in whatever position he poses her, to express his vision. He keeps making adjustments to finer and finer details, until he's posing the very muscles of her face, which Ms. Coca inimitably and dutifully 'holds,' immobilized by his agenda.
Somehow that skit, from the 1950's --the same decade in which footbinding was declared illegal in China--brought home a connection that i could no longer question. A few days after my little Imogene came intact out of the kiln ready to wax and costume, the real Imogene passed away. Story of my creative life: a private, karmic 'baton' gets passed to me on a level too weird to be believed and too convoluted to explain without sounding... well... really weird. But there it is, consistently undeniable.

Ten months of researching and sewing, embroidering, and doting. My weird little Imogene crept pedantically into my world with no commissioner (lucratively speaking) and no real prospects. Too doll-like to be really conceptual, too laden with statement to just be a pretty little dolly-doll, with her scary puppets and her unflinching revolutionary earnestness. By the time she found her way into a gallery in SoHo (where she was priced at $11,000 by the gallery owner, a number calculated from the $4,500 i told him i needed for my end of the work) we were living in a post-9/11 world, and the collector market that i'd just been orbiting into suddenly seemed to dry up. She sat there in a glass case for two years, until i came and took her home, seven years ago. Even now, she waits in veils of tissue, to tell her puppet stories to someone.
--Brand-new and yet on her way to becoming

But the final karmic nod that i must be patient with this strange gift i have for channelling rogue energy came when i stopped in Chinatown on my way home after picking her up.
The fortune in my cookie, which i later tucked inside Imogene's cap, admonishing:
"(S)he who hurries cannot walk with dignity."

1 comment:

  1. Im happy to have discovered your work through Etsy. It is remarkable! I also enjoy your story about her! Delightful!