Sunday, September 24, 2017

Puppetry, as a reflecting on life with illness/disability

The Two Dancer Puppets for the "Reflection" project are on the go since 2013, but I restarted working on them about two months ago. Read more about that HERE.

Puppet making has many, many steps. In terms of the creative process, but also emotionally....
If I like it or not!

photo of sculpted and painted puppet body parts made by Corina Duyn
'Hanging out'


Sculpting the heads, the hands, the feet/shoes. Assembling the bodies. And for this project, of course there is two of everything. Herself, and her reflection... (A disabled puppet sees her dancing reflection in the mirror)
Two wooden puppet bodies, with sculpted caly heads made by Corina Duyn

Broken bodies

Seeing these bodies side by side. In all their nakedness, a friend commented on how this also represents my story. The story of illness, of disability, of fragility, of a broken body in a way.
How true.
'But', I said'. 'They will be dressed, of course!'
'Of course.'

But isn't that a story in itself. 
The assembling of the bodies, the painting, dressing up and all, covers up the reality of a fragile body. A puppet body which can not function without support. Support of strings, and glue, and wires and a cross to manipulate movement. My body, which can not fully function without the support of mobility aids, of society, of friendships...

Putting it all together

Last week I started painting the heads, hands and shoes.
A process which is divided up in four stages. Two different undercoats. One 'wash' with watercolour paint, and finishing off with varnish. Before being attached to the body for good.

photo of sculpted and painted puppet body parts made by Corina Duyn, gathered in a box
box of painted body parts, paint, brushes etc

The puppets became little beings.
I just love this photo of the puppet (its reflection) showing off the new socks.
I think there is a sense of fragility in it. But also a huge sense of pride.
photo of puppet sitting on a box, in her underwear, wearing stripy socks, made by Corina Duyn
I think this is one of my favourite images.
And pride.
In the last few days I have started to work on the clothing.
Clothing cut, and yet to be sewn and fitted
Oh, how I wish I could just stay in the studio, and finish the clothing. And not be in tears from the pain if stay any longer than 15 minutes behind/near the sewing machine... 
I am re-learning how to find the best posture, use the most appropriate chair, and most of all, to set my alarm.
So, all in good time, one day at the time, one small step at the time, the girls are getting dressed.
two puppets dressed in brown velvet trousers, made by Corina Duyn
trousers fitting
puppet leaning on her walking sticks, Puppet by Corina Duyn
Holding herself upright with her walking sticks
Saturday's session: first shirt in the making
And while I work away on the puppets, Dominic Fee is working on creating the movement of the puppets. I love collaborating with an artist of such calibre.

Puppet standing on a small stage made by artist Dominic Fee
 Jimmy: "At last I made it onto a stage!"

Jimmy, my at least 25-year-old puppet, has travelled to Cork to be a 'stand-in' for the 'girls'. And how proud he looks! 

The 'stage' is Dominic's art: "DLV (DIMENSIONS, LOCATION VARIABLE) is a modular, interactive, open-ended artwork, made in 2013, consisting of several hundred wooden components which can be assembled together in many different ways." 

Jimmy with Dominic Fee's DLV artwork
The DLV artwork proved to be an incredible platform to facilitate the movement of the puppets. Dominic first trial had Jimmy move his arms, with the help of a small motor, and strings leading from the puppets via the DLV structure.
Incredible stuff.
Watch this space for updates!

Art and reality 

Over the years I have come to realise that my art reflects the stages of my life (with illness). Usually after a work has been completed. Sometimes I see this only years later... Reflections of growth, of hopes, challenges, and desires.

As this puppet project had a four year lead in period, in which my health took many a challenge, I can only hope that the movement, the stepping out, shown here, will in some way reflect my own present personal reality: the wish, and ability to dance. 

At least let me trust the reflection in the mirror - the movements which are possible in my mind's eye. 

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