It must have been six months ago that I got the catalog from The J.Peterman Company in the mail.
As soon as I looked at the drawing of the dress on the cover I knew what I wanted to do. The dress looked like something from the 1950s and was drawn to look as if someone was wearing it, even though there was no person.
Kind of like Claude Rains in the movie The Invisible Man.
From the moment I looked at the dress, I imagined it with an animal’s head and boots. This is why it took me so long to do this project at The Mansion. I had to collect photographs of animal heads. Then I had to get arms and hands and shoes.
I was able to get heads and hands from the catalogs, magazines, and calendars we were sent in the mail. But shoes were a problem.
So I decided we’d make our own.
I cut templates of shoes and boots out of boxboard that could easily be traced around and cut out of pretty paper. Then it was just a matter of the people who came to the class of making choices, making shoes, gluing them all down on paper, and adding any kind of background they wanted.
June was the first to glue a giraffe head onto her dress. She started laughing when she did. That got us all laughing.
Lucy color-coordinated her hummingbird with her dress and shoes. Then she added some purple raindrops
Art was the only man in the class. I thought he might show up, so I made sure to have some men’s clothing. Art cut his boots out of paper with a photo of a mountain. Then he took the paper that was left over, (which strangely was the perfect shape) and used it as a background behind his Wolfman.
Ellen had her elegant Birdwoman walking through a field of purple flowers.
When Claudia saw the dresses I had cut out she said they were like paper dolls. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I’m sure that was part of the appeal for me. Today I found out that Claudia and I share a love of paper dolls.
Jane had her own take on the project. She loves to paint and draw, so she glued down some of the pieces from the magazines but spent most of her time drawing around them. Jane has a whole vocabulary of marks and lines that she works with in her drawings and paintings.
Although they often look abstract, she can explain them the same way someone might explain the meaning of their poem.
This was one of the funniest projects I’ve ever done at The Mansion. We all got a kick out of seeing the animal heads on the clothes and matching them with the oversized shoes and odd hands.
I think the immediacy and playfulness had a lot to do with why it worked so well. I want to keep that in mind for when I go back to the Mansion to make more art next month.