Sunday, 23 September 2018

Creepy Mannequins

“In the same way mannequins resemble people,
fiction resembles life.”
- Online meme, sometimes attributed to Marty Robin

“You know, a not meant to move. These faces, these half-bodies, when you animate them, they're more live than the living. They can be dangerous for those who don't really understand them. With contained energy, no one can predict what will happen when it's released.”
- Jacques Yonnet, French author and poet, 1915-1974

Mannequins have always fascinated me. They have lives of their own. When you turn away, you just know that they move imperceptibly or – worse – breathe.

And when the store closes – well, that’s when the mannequins take over. Try on each other’s clothes. Sip dry (of course) martinis. Have unprotected sex. Pretend they’ve read Finnegans Wake. The usual suburban things.

Like cattle, mannequins sleep standing up, or so I’m told.

They can be entertaining, humorous, strange, and just plain creepy. Take a look at the photo above. Creepy, yes?

I know exactly when my fascination with mannequins began: it was 1963 in the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition. The Glenayr Kitten Mill of Lanark, Ontario, featured a display of live models wearing the mill’s famous sweaters – “Kitten Sweaters”. Those models sat absolutely still for hours on end. It was uncanny and rivetting at the same time. Silent crowds stood and stared back at them. It was performance art, although that term meant nothing to me at the time.

It started my life-long fascination with mannequins. It was also when I unwittingly trained myself to be a Kitten model. To this day, I can sit still for a very long time, barely breathing, eyes blinking only occasionally...totally still. In a staring contest, I will win. Ask my former students.

The photos that follow are culled from my collection of mannequin images. I enjoy their utter strangeness. I hope you do, too. Or not.

Mannequin featured in Max Dean’s photo exhibit, Still Moving,
Unilever Soap Factory, Toronto.
Part of the 2018 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

Abandoned mannequins in the bankrupt
Sears store, Quinte Mall, Belleville, January, 2018

Mannequin on display at the Hudson’s Bay store,
Yonge Street at Queen Street, Toronto, September, 2018
This photo is disturbing.

Hooded cape designed by Georgia O’Keeffe,
Brooklyn Museum, June 2017

Mannequin, Birkenhead Outlet Mall,
Sydney, Australia, April, 2017

Mannequin Reflection, Harry Rosen store,
Brookfield Place, Toronto, January, 2017

Mannequin, Queen Victoria Building,
Sydney, Australia, April, 2017

Mannequin, Harry Rosen store,
Brookfield Place, Toronto, January, 2017

Field of Mannequins, Janet B Gallery & Studios,
Consecon, September, 2018

 “Creepy Hands”, Harry Rosen store, 
First Canadian Place, April, 2015

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Little Man, Little Man...

“But that...feeling of inadequacy never really goes away...”
Lorrie Moore, American Writer

Thoughts on inadequacy and a delightful piece of sculpture that has come into my life.

The little sculpture (15 cm square) in the accompanying photographs is entitled “Little Man”. The sculptor is SaraLou Miller (Link), a talented mixed media artist from Prince Edward County. “Little Man” was part of TOUCH, an August exhibit that SaraLou shared with the painter Barbara Högenauer at Picton’s Maison Depoivre Art Gallery (Link). Maison Depoivre is one of my favourite galleries – it consistently offers lively, eclectic exhibits from a wide range of artists.

As soon as I saw “Little Man” at Maison Depoivre, I knew that I wanted to adopt him. There was a resonance with the sculpture. A soul thrumming.

Writing this blog post is helping me understand my reaction.

Feelings of inadequacy have been part of my life since I was a child. And I don’t understand why. My childhood was filled with loving parents and family; I did well in school and enjoyed learning; I took a lively interest in history, politics, writing, and reading. My life was filled with blessings and accomplishments. But...underneath it all...just hovering beyond my grasp...especially at night...came the anxiety attacks, the panic sweats, and the nightmares whose main theme was my not being good enough.

Looking at SaraLou’s “Little Man” took me back to those memories. I know the pose well – curled up, head buried, making myself small, and desperately hoping no one would discover what a fraud I was.

The miracle of my life is that those fears did not overwhelm me in the long run. I don’t understand quite how that happened. Certainly the day my Grandmother Tayler whispered in my ear, “You’re perfect enough just the way you are,” was a turning point. What I do know is that being surrounded by love – from family, friends, and two wondrous husbands – helped turn the tide.

And continues to help turn the tide. As Lorrie Moore says, those feelings never really go away. But each day brings a renewed determination to bask in the love that surrounds me...and to radiate it back into the world.

I hope this isn’t self-pitying. But it is important to give words to the impact “Little Man” has on me. He is a talisman. He is MY talisman. And he grounds me.

Thank you, SaraLou Miller, for your gift.