© Ron Orpitelli 2007
Grin Reaper:
Alter for a Terminally Ill Clown
fabric and found items on panel
36" x 24"
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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 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 over 15 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).
All images © Ron Orpitelli 2007