On October 4, 2018, Jane Pickett wrote about my art practice in “Jane Pickett on Marsian De Lellis” for Riting in conjunction with Object of Her Affection performances at Automata.
In advance of the LAX Festival we asked twelve artists to profile the twelve pieces in the festival. Marsian’s performance, OBJECT OF HER AFFECTION, opened on September 27th, 2018, at Automata in the Los Angeles Exchange [LAX] Festival and runs till October 13th. Details can be found here.
I was fresh off interviewing a guy running for California State Assembly as an independent when I reached out to Marsian De Lellis. Having grown weary of team-based politics… all the red versus blue, D versus R… and increasingly itchy about how to best engage with politics as an artist, I snagged a few extra cameras from fellow filmmakers, audition lights from my downstairs actor neighbor, and sound gear from an installation artist to investigate what it means to drop party affiliation and whether or not this candidate stood at the forefront of a rising tide of independents. Coming from narrative storytelling, doc-style interviewing was new to me and with a trunk full of gear, it seemed only right to extend my investigation into the unflinchingly independent vision of Marsian De Lellis – an artist whose work consistently disrupts and defies oversimplifIed notions of good and bad, right and wrong.
I interviewed Marsian at their apartment amidst a well organized stack of neon fur and a heap of maimed Raggedy Anne-like dolls. The dolls really hit home as a popular girl in middle school use to call me “Raggedy Annnnnne…” with a kind of condescending affection you give towards something you hold dear for one moment, then toss aside. Hung on the wall, Marsian had a close up photo of one of the doll’s wrecked faces with a fly creeping across its eye, hammering in a sense of its neglect and decomposition. There was something so riveting about the desperation in those eyes and how Marsian took one of the most classic hold-close American dolls and reframed it into a position of violent assault and dismissal. There was a profound sense of innocence lost to it that felt bravely poignant and painful in light of the #metoo movement and all the ugly that’s come to light in the wake of our country electing T***p.
There were paintings of Raggedy Anne and Andy in compromising positions on Marsian’s walls, a fabulously terrifying puppet of the drag queen Divine alongside a quote from John Waters that said, “Life is nothing if you’re not obsessed.” I remember reading once that John Waters and Divine found each other around high school and college and that the two became shelter for one another amidst a fraternity and sorority-like social environment. Marsian’s show, OBJECT OF HER AFFECTION, is an unconventional love story about a woman that develops intimate relationships with inanimate objects. And how perfect is it that they’re using object manipulation to tell that story? When I asked Marsian what got them interested in puppetry in the beginning, they initially scoffed at their all too obvious answer, The Muppets, then dug into how Mrs. Piggy was a drag queen. But even before The Muppets, Marsian talked about being into dolls… always playing with their sister’s dolls and how they’d sometimes rip the legs off because they were upset that they couldn’t have them. Marsian doesn’t consider themself strictly a puppet artist, but an artist that uses puppetry as a tool the way a painter uses oil paint.
Marsian was inspired to make this particular show after watching a documentary about Object Sexuality (OS) where a woman professes her love to an amusement park ride… reads it poetry, climbs under it, gets her hands in the grease and smells it. They liked how object sexuals explode traditional categorization of sexuality and said, “she just looked so happy and it was just so refreshing because at the time there was all this progress and LGBT rights, but at the same time, it just felt like… queer identity was becoming gentrified and that there was this march towards heteronormativity… There was just something about people that love buildings and bridges and structures that I found refreshing because it makes you question – What is identity? What is sexual identity if it’s not gender based? I mean, these people are in love with things that aren’t even human.”
*Alan Reynolds runs for California State Assembly in District 41 on November 6th.
Jane Pickett is filmmaker and playwright whose work has been presented in New York, Los Angeles, and internationally. This past year she was a finalist in the 20th Century Fox Bridge program to usher more female directors into studio film.
Marsian De Lellis is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice incorporates sculpture, objects, installation, time-based performance, and handmade spectacles that memorialize obsessional lives.
Photos by Jane Pickett and Marsian De Lellis.
Research drawing by Marsian De Lellis of a scene from the documentary “Strange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower” in which Amy Wolfe, an objectum sexual, gets intimate with her beloved, “1001 Nacht” (an amusement park ride).