Greer Lankton + JoJo Baby

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 3  – Greer Lankton + JoJo Baby

(clockwise) Karl Peterson, Marsian De Lellis, Annie O’Neill/Mattress Factory, Chicago Reader 

I first met Jojo Baby (who is as visually stunning as his dolls) on the set of a student film about a mortician that had a casting call for drag queens, and later at a club kid salon in Chicago, where I first experienced his work. We hung out a few times at his home studio when he was sculpting dolls. At the time I hadn’t quite moved onto puppets and was making stuffed animals that were flaccid and couldn’t do very much. It was probably through Jojo that I absorbed the idea of making a jointed understructure – although Jojo’s armatures were much more animistic and intricate: including an entire chakra system comprised of precious stones and bodily artifacts. I also learned about tissue papier-mâché he used to make skin.

Jojo often spoke of his friend Greer Lankton, who had recently passed away. Lankton made meticulous elaborate dolls of varying body types and genders with exhibitions at the Mattress Factory and a piece in the 1995 Whitney Biennial. She was a fixture in the East Village art scene of the 80’s, a Nan Golden muse, and even feathered a Big Bird. Recently, Lankton’s work has become more available to a new generation of artists thanks to G.L.A.M. (the Greer Lankton Archive Museum). I was lucky enough to visit limited showing of her work at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles and she recently had a retrospective at Participant Inc. in NYC.

Jojo continues to make dolls and puppets in Chicago, including a wig-puppets and humanettes. He is the subject of a Clive Barker produced documentary, JOJO BABY THE FILM (which I am dying to see!) and the photo book, GETTING INTO FACE. Above (center and right) is tribute doll Jojo made of Lankton, which was displayed as part of a Radical Faerie installation/performance I helped to curate at Randolph Street Gallery.