Monday, November 17, 2008

A Puppet's Gotta Move and Shout!

As an professional sculptor and studio artist I make many kinds of art. Close to my heart are dolls and puppets. I make them and collect them as examples of folk art and “blue collar sculpture”. A Henry Moore can just sit there, a puppet’s gotta move and shout!

That’s the magic of hand made puppets. Because of their scale and intimacy, people aren’t intimidated by them. Everyone has played with a doll. All it takes is intention and a voice to turn almost any small object into a puppet. Most folks just need permission, space and easily worked materials to begin to create their own. Puppets transform viewers into participants. That’s why dolls and puppets can be a gateway experience to all the arts, from painting and sculpture to dance and theatre.

I’ve volunteered bringing art to Portland schools. From 1999 to 2001, I worked with Merry Wingfield, director of the Portland Earth Day celebration, the Procession of the Species. I Designed and conducted several 2 hour puppet workshops for middle school students. Each student created an animated salmon rod puppet and could participate in the Procession of the Species Earth Day Parade. There was no budget for materials so we worked with simple materials: donated close celled foam, sticks, rocks, decorative buttons. Tools: Electric carving knife to cut fish blanks, scissors, magic markers, paint, needle and thread. It was a surprise to me to realize that most of these junior high kids had never used a needle and thread! So it wasn't just art but basic skills that were being learned.

Every year for the past 25 years I create a New Years Scape Goat. It’s a collaborative process of building a large figure of cardboard, fabric, wood and fireworks that is burned at midnight. While the object may be lovely, the process and involvement of non artists is the real art. People write wishes and prayers, adding and modifying the goat, enjoying both its creation and its destruction. It’s taught me that art does not have to be precious or lasting to be enjoyed by many people, it’s the ritual and shared creation that is important.


Susan GT said...

Love your puppet. And that you brought so much to those middle schoolers with your puppet workshops. I do mask workshops with children as well and I know that those basic skills combined with creativity is so so important especially now with all the emphasis on high tech. Your new years 'scape goat' is genius!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Susan,
That is a larger than life puppet (aren't they all?) of a great blue heron. We performed with the band Oregon on the main stage at one of the last Art Quakes.
The dancer must move backwards to articulate the legs.