21" x 17" x 22" H 2009
The high priest, apprentice and novitiate practice a ceremony in their sacred cave.
Composition: acrylic stencilled doors, plastic tubing, chicken bones, paper mache, candles, toy chicken, quadruped pelvises (deer, woodchuck, rabbit), plastic bottles, fabric, charms, feathers, bejeweled brass crowns, mouse skins, alligator head, glass lamp finials, Sculpy Clay stalactites, hair clips.
Faithful followers of this site know that I often find animal bones while walking in the woods. Among the more interesting ones are pelvic bones of four legged critters because they look like masks or faces. Usually when one thinks of pelvises we imagine human ones because those are what we see in horror movies or posters at the doctor's office but they don't look like masks. The reason they don't is because human pelvises are on the vertical. Quadruped pelvises are horizontal. That's why when you see chimpanzees or dogs walking upright they always look like they're drunk or on ice skates for the first time. This was a big deal for fossil hunting anthropologists: when they first found an ancient pelvis that was vertically oriented they knew they had their man. One is left to speculate what was in their mind when it came to naming him.
"Oh I say, Trevor. This, this HOMO ERECTUS business. Isn't it a bit ... um, you know, a bit much?"
"Nigel, Nigel, Nigel. Don't go all wanker on us now. This is science m'boy, science. Come have a cuppa. There's a good lad."
I wasn't until I found the third pelvis (over about a five year period) that the voodoo theme took shape. Then I suddenly visualized a pope-ish master of ceremonies (fawn deer), a smaller apprentice (woodchuck) and a somewhat timid novitiate (rabbit) with some Mardi Gras style headgear. I don't normally kill anything with fewer than six legs but I will make exceptions for residential mice and they are pretty easy to skin. Get 'em started around the nether regions with a razor blade and the pelt will pull off like a sock . (I have a daughter whose favorite girlhood toys were mouse skin finger puppets. You just roll the skin back fur side out over your finger and make up some witty dialog. Simple. I don't know if she still does that.)
Voodoo has its origins with the Yoruba people of Africa. They crossed the Atlantic to begin a new life (slavery) and practiced their craft in Haiti (which to this day has official legal proscriptions against zombie-ism). From there it migrated to New Orleans where it prospered under the tutelage of Marie LeVaux, the Voodoo Queen. But eventually there was a schism in the ranks which threatened the integrity of the whole voodoo community. It seems there was a tradition of wearing animal skins or animal parts on the head, along with a gold crown, when performing certain rituals and a vocal minority insisted that badgers be used exclusively for this headgear. Marie and her contingent wanted to use other types of animals. In fact, they wanted anything but badgers. There was a huge fight. Huge. Marie used her queenly powers to convene a meeting of all members at the Voodoo Convention Hall (208 Bourbon Street). Each side stated their case and Marie was about to call for a vote as soon as everyone had dipped their finger in a purple inkwell when an excited titter ran through the crowd and a sudden, spontaneous, thunderous exclamation shook the hall to its very rafters: "We don't need no stinking badgers!" And that, as they say, was that. (Whew.)
I set the scene in a representation of a cave, with baked clay stalactites hanging from the ceiling (to assist in the cave imagery because it's not easy to simulate a cave in a box) and rough lumpy walls of papier mache which I concocted of shredded paper, wallpaper paste and water. This makes a nice workable slimy mass that can be slathered on and raised into little peaks and lumps that become hard as wood after drying for a few days (add about 1 3/4 dollops of salt to avoid future mold problems).
I used glass lamp finials for the big figure's eyes with LED lamps behind them for dramatic (not to say hair-raising blood-curdling panic-inducing) effect. But here's the thing: the lights only come on when the doors are opened! A teeny little microswitch is wired up at the base of the left door and so the person looking at the piece is all Lah-de-dah, I think I'll just open these doors to get a better look, and the eyes light up and the person gets really scared. (Kind of sadistic on my part but very effective.)
I hung a little crucifix (metal-detecting find) on a gold chain around the neck of the big figure and a charm bracelet around the apprentice to create a religious aura for the scene - some good-natured sport poking a bit of fun at bone-headed murderous medieval superstition. Then for the sake of cultural diversity (or relativity or whatever they're calling it now) I laid out a chicken over a pentagram, for which I used a pair of dividers. This is a drafting or cartographic tool looking like a compass but with both legs ending in a point. With it you can divide a circle into 3 or 17 or 59 equal parts. About the only other way to do that involves quantum mechanics, which I have never fully mastered (tried the Schrodinger's thing with the cat once but it was inconclusive and the cat has taken to wearing a little tinfoil beanie). The process runs thus: if you want the circle in 5 parts you guess what one fifth of the circumference might be and set the divider legs that far apart and walk the dividers around the circle. You probably won't end up at your starting point (come up short or overshoot) so you extend or compress the legs a little and try again. After a few tries (maybe quite a few) your divider leg will end up at its starting point and the circumference has been divided into fifths, which you marked on the final validation walk.
The chicken business, of course, is a Santaria item. They were getting in trouble a few years ago for ritualistically killing various animals to sacrifice to their gods in order to cure baldness or win lotteries or whatever so the Government stepped in and granted them "real" religion status and the chicken advocate people had to shut up. (This is by no means anywhere near the top of the wacky scale when it comes to religious practices and beliefs.) I'm not sure if the Santarians use the pentagram but somebody does and it's easy to get these things mixed up. See "Crossed Signals" for an illustration of this. (Just curious: do vegetarians not take communion?) Kidding. I'm only kidding.