Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Puppet Reflection

I have come to accept that certain art projects take years to grow from the initial seed (idea) to a finished piece of art, with its own story to tell. My dance puppets are one such project.

two sculpted heads drying on a stove, each resting on a sculpted lower leg. By Artist Corina Duyn
Heads drying on the stove.
The shoes- also drying, were a handy way
to keep the heads upright... 
Looking back:

I found this abstract From a blog post in March 2014:

"... During my residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig [September 2013] I was invited to visit the dance studio. When I made my way up there, the person who had invited me was not there. Walking through the door I was faced by a full wall of mirrors.
Unsettled by my reflection, I turned around, sat down, and observed the beautiful views from the large windows: the greenhouse, Annaghmakerrig House, fields, and trees. Lots of trees. A robin landed on the wall in front of me. A playful dog ran back and forth (danced?) along the patio, his owner not to be seen. Listening to a reversing tractor making a sound like a musical instrument, I decided it was time to look around and face the dance studio mirrors.
I walked, slowly. Stood still, two canes holding me upright. When I moved the canes behind my back I looked pretty normal. I could be that dancer. But looking with intend into my face, brought sadness.
Here was the reality: I am disabled. Rely on canes to walk. Can only stand steadily for a few minutes. Away from mirrors I generally do not see my life to be so much different from the ‘healthy’. 

I needed to trust my body, trust I can dance. In my own way. 
As a result of this encounter, the puppets I was working on which were to represent dancers, changed from two healthy dancers to one disabled dancer seeing her healthy reflection in the mirror.
In art I can be who I want to be. In art I have danced. ..."

I had started to make one of the heads four years ago... But life took a different route. And I was not so sure about the head I had created... It was different from my usual more whimsical faces. 
Over the years other sculptures were started, and finished. But this one head remained in my studio. Untouched. But not forgotten. 

Starting the puppet making workshops in my studio 8 weeks ago was the catalyst to resume working on the Dancer puppets. (Of course the whole puppet adventures have taken on a life of their own as well. See below for link.)

As I wanted to have the puppet face itself in a 'mirror' (I intend to use framed plexiglass as a pretend mirror), I had to find a way to copy the head I had made. I decided that the best way to do this was create a plaster mould. Having made the copy of the head with DAS air drying clay, I was able to change the facial features some bit, to a more open, happy face, while the clay was still wet.

two puppets / marionettes in the making. Showing wooden bodies and sculpted heads  By Corina Duyn
Dancer Puppets in the making.
One with walking sticks,
the other more free in her movements

I have assembled two wooden puppet bodies. The parts made with the help of my brother Joop, and IWA puppet maker Paul.

I made two individual sets of hands. One set to hold on to the walking sticks. The other with a much more movement in her arms and hands- even her wrists. (I moulded a piece of rope from a roller blind between the hand and forearm)

hands in the making. Adding one finger at the time
Hands in progress
The puppet with the walking sticks will be pretty much stationary when facing the 'mirror'. The other one- the reflection of herself in the 'mirror' I would like to be able to move. To Dance!
This will be an exciting adventure too. 
Of course the puppets can be manipulated manually... like the puppets in Life Outside the Box but I am also exploring how the puppet in the mirror can move with the help of a little motor.  
This part will be created in collaboration with Cork based Artist Dominic Fee .
I am so excited!

Today, eight weeks after having resumed this project, I have applied the first of four layers of paint/varnish on the puppets. Over the next few weeks/months, I will look for the fabric, and design the clothing, decide on hair style, and finish the painting process.
And suddenly, the puppet and its reflection in the mirror are becoming little 'people'.

Watch this space!

Further reading:

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