As an interdisciplinary artist, my practice incorporates sculpture, objects, installation, time-based performance, and handmade spectacles that memorialize obsessional lives. My work celebrates the stories of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. Combining their biographical material with autobiography becomes a means to channel my own personal struggles into something comprehensible.

Marsian De Lellis, (In)/Animate Objects, 2016, Photo: Alex Griffin
Marsian De Lellis, (In)/Animate Objects, LAMAG, 2016, Photo: Alex Griffin

Through my practice, I investigate embodiment, desire, contemporary forms of animism, and neurodivergence. Utilizing dolls, artificial figures, performing objects, cutouts, pop-ups, and wearable architecture, I invite the viewer to relate to inanimate objects as if they were alive, and contemplate the ways that objects can occupy more than one meaning at any given time.

I am re-contextualizing the idea of the object and puppet-based performance art. Puppetry isn’t simply form that occupies dimensional space, over time. Just like the particle/wave paradox of quantum physics, it’s seeped in duality of relationship with the witness who changes what they are observing by their very presence. 

My performances validate the universal hopes, needs, and fears of fringe characters. Through their stories, I hope to make the strange familiar. Puppets have a disarming, primal power. Because they are crude representations of humans, they can at once reinforce the otherness of characters they represent, and enable viewers to identify with them in ways they couldn’t with actors.

I’m expanding upon the medium’s inherent metaphors that have often become cliché.  Puppetry is suited for grisly subjects including heightened scenes of violence. Blurring the lines between set and puppet, I animate models in ways that dismantle the idea that they’re merely miniaturized reproductions of physical space, but sites to examine abstract concepts unencumbered by epic scope or emotional weight. I’ve reverse engineered my experience in a world that wants to invisibilize people like me. Although I’m ever-present on stage, I can engage viewers with enough story, visuals, and ideas, to disappear before their eyes.

video: Alex Griffin

I am contributing content that grows locally out of pop culture media narratives inflected with my own experiences, which feels at home in L.A.. My work reflects the strangeness of L.A., its relationship to and perception of the body, and the extremities of reality television, which is all about people seeking out love and admiration. Perhaps that’s why as eccentric as my protagonists may be, viewers have said that they are moved by and can relate to them.

For a recent installation in which I tasked myself to mass-produce over a thousand dolls, a pop-up community of artist and non-artist collaborators formed in LA and remotely in Louisville, Brooklyn, Providence and Amsterdam. Our process appropriated aspects of quilting bees. As our hands collectively stitched irregularities, our minds contemplated the idea of identity: a repetition of a repetition for which there is no original.

I’m hijacking the term, “micro-influencer”, reclaiming it from advertisers who short-circuit our brains with a FOMO on behalf of corporations. As a puppet artist, I own “micro-influencer” – I wield diminutive cardboard objects in intimate settings to tickle small crowds with big ideas that may not yet be viral, but are highly contagious. 

Calling something “problematic” has become a shortcut to label something as oppressive without actually doing any work. But where some see problematic, I see problemagic: an opportunity to generate dialogue in a world demoralized by failing institutions. In today’s “takedown” culture, people have elevated trolls by centering conversations on their agendas. Instead, I’m directing focus to my own made up, outsider folk legends whose stories I want to share.

I’m tapping into an overly connected culture’s growing sense of isolation. I offer handmade alternatives to a social media outrage-industrial complex that profits by inciting our emotions. Rather than issue trigger warnings, I serve trigger celebrations. My audiences are durable. They’ve been around the block. They’re minorities who have been rejected by their own minorities, yet retain a sense of humor. They convene in close quarters where they can invest in the tactile objects I have invested in by choosing to believe they’re alive for a few moments. I provide a temporary space where collectively they can consider the truth in the fictitious and the artifice of reality. 

I am interested in artificial figures, excess, and a kind of deconstructed visual narrative where scale, time, and vantage point shift fluidly – expressed through damaged objects that show evidence of use, frailty, and their own impermanence.  The objects I generate occupy a precarious border between beauty and terror, pushing me to further examine the fissures of our shared world.