Puppetry Heroes: Mentors, Influences, Inspiration, + Legends
In 2015, I was nominated for Ronnie Burkett’s Puppetry Heroes: Mentors, Influences, Inspirations and Legends Challenge… And so began five days of writing on instagram and facebook about artists like Nancy Andrews, Paul Mc Carthy, JoJo Baby + Greer Lankton, Janie Geiser, and the style of puppetry known as kuroko.
Day 1: Nancy Andrews
Nancy Andrews is the intersection of puppetry, fine arts, experimental film, and performance art. I was privileged enough to study with Nancy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nancy was my first puppet mentor, though oddly I was enrolled in her Intro to Sound and Sound for Performance classes. Sound is such an important element in puppetry! She often spoke of John Cage and one of our first projects was to solder mini-speakers and invent unusual instruments. Under her tutelage I worked on a multimedia performance that drew parallels between the plastic surgeries of Michael Jackson and body artist, Orlan, using masks and prosthetic body parts.
At Randolph Street Gallery, I saw her puppet film and performance, An Epic Falling Between the Cracks, about the voyages of Frances Coco and her dog, Lemuel, into remote locations as relayed by Nancy’s librarianesque documentarian persona.
While interning at N.A.M.E. Gallery, I witnessed Nancy’s production, Woods Marm, which I can only describe as a convergence of school pageant and high art. The sight of performers dressing up as a chorus of pine trees (with holes cut out of the trunks for their faces) every evening left an indelible mark in my brain.
While co-curating Blood from a Turnip with Vanessa Gilbert, we included Monkeys and Lumps about our efforts as individual humans to understand our place and relationship with the unknowable. The film combined hand drawn animations of monkey’s facial expressions with footage of primate puppets dancing. I later saw a retrospective of Nancy’s films at MOMA.
Currently, Nancy is faculty at the College of the Atlantic. I look forward to seeing her latest film, The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes co-written with Jennifer Reeder about a scientist who grafts animal senses to her brain in order to revolutionize human consciousness.