always with stairs. always with red. poor poor lucia.
the first of a series of five opera fine art marionette boxes.
it is truly my labor of love/passion/insanity and tremendous conviction. an idea that started many years ago and even currently has taken four or five years of more focused work to bring to fruition.
the piece below is a marionette in a box i made almost 30 years ago. ...crazy. must be that new math.
somewhere - i think in the RISD clipping library - i found a few vague sentences in an article from some obscure european magazine describing marionette boxes created by artists behind the iron curtain. it electrified my curiosity and imagination.
prior to that my mom had given my sister and i fairly detailed marionettes one holiday. my sister's was little red riding hood and mine was a keystone cop character in a dark blue suit. his mouth could clack open and closed and i loved to unstring and restring him, exploring the mechanics and how things made him work the way he worked.
another childhood memory/feeling/aura is the operas my mom would play. we had a large stereo system with big speakers and a record player that hooked up to a receiver and double tape deck. all of my parents albums and cassette tapes were neatly stored around the stereo system. one of my favorite things to spend time with were the opera boxes - four or five albums per box that you would stack on the record player stem to drop one after another then flip the stack and listen to the other sides.
one could do that with any five albums really (more than that and the last album would start to sound warpy) - but i loved the operas and the big books they came with and just the whole ceremony of it all.
we had lucia di lammermoor, faust, carmen, madame butterfly, la boheme, la traviata, aida, and tales of hoffmann. i know them all by heart. well. maybe not tales of hoffmann. she tended to listen to that the least.
then there was this film gil and i saw - i can't remember if it was albuquerque or in portland, oregon. i'm pretty sure albuquerque. but not positive. the sensibilty and visuals - and the armiture used in the animation. AND the iron curtain again. i was hooked head over heels in DEEP. faustas. faustas.
then lurking around pdx in the mid 90s. when we weren't bar-flying or slinking around shows at satyricon and la luna, we'd drink scotch and muddle our way through myst and riven (on our perfoma 6400) - i loved the mystery and lack of direction and even grueling, frustrating periods of absolutely no progress. - picking up (virtual) objects of no familiarity and having to figure out what they were meant to do.
all of this. it's all a cumulative influence. the melancholy and mystery. small, distant worlds. bittersweet and not immediately clear.
ultimately this is an art piece and meant to be explored with contemplation and meditation. the idea being it is a quiet, plain object that does not, at first glance, reveal much of anything about itself. and if one is so moved, its secrets will unfold with no instruction/guidance provided.
but as one is not able to interact with it virtually, the detailed description is necessary. please view the listing (here) for the technical description.
lucia herself is quite small, about 4.5in/11.5cm. you (most likely) will find she requires very slight movements of the strings to make what seems like a large movement within her world. but. there are no rules and the viewer's (puppet master's?) mood is what gives life.
i worked with the tremendously talented carpenter Andy Arch to help bring these boxes from the ether to existence in our realm. i am eternally grateful for his ability, patience and ingenuity in decoding my (babble) vision.
I worked with the tremendously talented musician Emily Hope Price for the heartbreakingly beautiful contemplation on Lucia's famous aria. her depth and passion leaves me breathless at each listen.
a little insight on the magic of the music - we used the amazing adafruit components. and i taught myself how to do some pretty fancy things with tiny sound cards, tiny amps and tiny power supplies.
the aria, and the version i know best is found here -
from a 2008 NPR article on Lucia di Lammermoor, a few words on the opera in general and then the aria's scene specifically:
"Of all of opera's unhinged ladies, the title character in Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor sets something of a gold standard for going bonkers. Forced into marrying someone she detests, Lucia stumbles into act three, wielding a bloody knife, freshly used to slice up her betrothed, all the while hallucinating and rambling on about the man she really loves."
Back at the Castle, the wedding party is still in full swing. But everyone freezes when they see the look on Raymond's face. He reports that while checking up on the newlyweds in their chamber, he found Lucie, bloody dagger in hand, standing over the body of her new husband, clearly out of her mind.
Lucie herself appears, in a bloodstained nightgown. It's her big mad scene — a 15-minute rollercoaster ride of incredibly florid music — a challenge for even the best sopranos to get right both technically and dramatically. In her delirium, Lucie hallucinates. She imagines herself back with Edgard, about to be married, but she also flashes back to her dream from Act One — a dead woman at the fountain trying to separate them. The wedding guests look on in horror, and Lucie finally faints. Henri returns to find his sister crazed and Arthur murdered.