I've always been fascinated with sideshows and oddity. When I was a little one, my mother took us to the fair. I so badly wanted to see the world’s smallest woman whose attraction was inside a trailer. As we paid our 3.00 and stepped right up, I saw her. She was perched in a large chair, probably to make her look even more tiny. We paid an extra 1.00 and she removed her lap blanket and showed her legs, which were tiny as well. There were write-ups for us to read about her as we left the other side of the trailer. When I looked back, there was a man next to her with a roll of gold jewelry, she had a wad of dollars and he the gold and they were transacting.
There were other sideshows to see, but I think most involved nudity and mom wasn't down with that. The odd provoked my imagination.
Circus performers of old really hold a mysterious magic for me. It's possibly the illusion or the antiquity and grandeur of the performance that gets me every time. When you are taking it all in at a circus there just isn't time for your rational mind to take over and muss things up. It's magic and you don't question.
One of the well-known and fascinating personalities of the sideshow culture is Jo Jo the dog faced boy and then later, Jo Jo the dog faced man. Russian performer, Fedor Jeftichew came to America in 1884 where his path crossed with P.T. Barnum. Before that, he and his father, who also had the same condition called hypertrichosis, travelled through the sideshow circuit in Europe until his father’s death. It was said that Fedor resembled a Skye terrier and his father, a poodle. Fedor signed a contract with Barnum when he was just 16 years old. Together they spun a tale and inspired audiences who came to the Greatest Show on Earth. Barnum advertised him as "the most prodigious paragon of all prodigies secured by P. T. Barnum in fifty years. The Human Skye Terrier, the crowning mystery of nature's contradictions."
I am in love with the idea of embracing uniqueness. It somehow became a romantic notion instead of a birthright. Don't hide it, because somewhere out there it will be celebrated, maybe even applauded for the simple wonder of it. Never try to fit in, it's a horrid waste of energy. We knew these truths as a little child and then we spend the rest of our lives seeking to recapture the magic of embracing our oddity.
Then along came Millie Tinker. Inspired by Jo Jo, Millie is a delicate beauty, Child of the Dog Faced Man. She is dressed in hand sewn antique garments and is completely hand sculpted. I took great care in finding just the perfect fabrics for her. She has the earthen look that is consistent with the body of my work, yet she has enveloped a certain elegance in her personality. Millie holds a broken doll, this symbolizes the brokenness in all of us. I am working on her sister as I write this.
Many artisans struggle with acceptance of their person and works. When we are crafting the broken parts of our being into new work it's easy to fall into self-doubt talk that tells us the broken parts are not worthy. That our odd nature will not be welcomed. In the art world, I have quietly learned that everyone is odd. Everyone one is fractured, even if it's a slight crack or crazing. When we find ourselves in the firefly light of a success we all feel like we don't quite belong there.
I think much of creating is about the fractures and what you allow in, to damn them up. I am more than content allowing the whispers of a sideshow just getting into town, the smell of an antique book shop, the mysterious pull of cryptozoology, and the wonder of the witching hour to wisp into the fissures of brokenness and infuse my blood with the magic that is Prim Pumpkin.