Recently I got asked to create an effigy. I have to admit it’s one of the stranger requests that have been put to me since I have begun my work as an artist. As it turns out it was also one of the most fun.
For the last 14 years Yukon Educational Theatre has been producing an event called Burning Away the Winter Blues. It is a celebration of Spring where the community comes together to literally burn away their winter blues (represented by notes written on paper, objects they have brought with them, and effigies). The community gathers at the S.S. Klondike and then walks in a torchlight procession with drummers and puppeteers operating the effigies to Robert Service Campground where a giant bonfire and fire spinners await them. And then they burn the effigies and anything they have brought to represent their blues in a truly pagan celebration.
I got the job of building and puppeteering an effigy for this year’s event which took place on March 24th. I decided to create a frost giant (based on Norse mythology). The build proved an interesting challenge as I couldn’t use any plastics since it was going to go up in flames very shortly (giving me a much more personal perspective on the concept of ephemeral art). In the end I built the frame (a giant head and hands) out of chicken wire and bamboo (with Tyler’s expert assistance) which I then covered with tissue paper and white glue. I did the details in tissue paper soaked in mod podge and acrylic paint. Then I created the body with many, many strands of crepe paper. I used bamboo poles attached to each of the hands and the head to operate the effigy (along with some willing friends) and banks of LED lights to illuminate it (which we pulled out before it went in the fire).
The event was wonderful. There was a breeze blowing which caused the frost giant’s body to billow out behind him as we traveled through the trees, the lights caused him to glow eerily, and the design allowed us to move the hands independently from the body so we could chase squealing and giggling children along the path. The community was out in force with costumes, drums and torches which made the event fantastic. And of course there was the other effigy – a dragon built of wicker which took five people to move and was simply stunning. I would definitely do it again.