Grin Reaper: Alter for a Terminally Ill Clown
fabric and found items on panel
36" x 24"

Returning to imagery from Haitian religious drapeaux, this piece was inspired by a close friend with whom I shared a number of wonderful years when we performed together professionally as clowns. Neither of us dons the motley any longer, and in fact my seriously ill buddy has been fighting for his life (somehow cheating death repeatedly) for many years. During a recent visit, he asked me to take away some of his clown wardrobe and "create something with them".

Moved as always by roadside shrines that often poke through the protective coating of daily routine when they suddenly appear with no warning or explanation (and often just as suddenly disappear with no trace), I focused on creating an alter of sorts where offerings and good thoughts might be left in spiritual support. This shrine's familiar figure is certainly viewed in normal times as the very antithesis of a clown. But for the particular jester this piece is dedicated to, there has been no such thing as normal for a very long time. Appropriating the reaper through a fool's sensibilities appeals to me as an act of defiance.

Using strips of fabric from costumes, I rendered the image through a latch hook process. As with shrines where personal notes and items are often left, this alter is affixed with clown boutonnieres and buttons, costume trim, a sponge nose, and burst balloons. Attached with strings are notes and sketches recalling shared memories, names of favorite clown buddies, successful performances together, unsuccessful performances together (now funny as seen through the patina of time passed), favorite gags, memorable walk-around props, memories of hard work and laughs under the big top, and reflections on the pains of life outside the big top (doomed to imperfection by reality).