We recently received the following note from Mabel Odessey, an American artist living in France:
I am contacting you about my current exhibition/installation at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. the exhibition opened on Alice Day July 6 and will run till the end of August so there is still time to catch it!
The subject of these pinhole photographs are marionnettes made by the English artist Margaret Littleton Cook (1940s). They explore the characters as representations of psycological states and Alice’s dream of wonderland as a spiritual journey. To come upon images in the garden unexpectedly much like Alice was confronted by characters in the books will give her psychological journey a geographic sense.
Each character Alice encounters on her journey represents a disturbing emotion that must be transformed in order to reach enlightenment. Carroll calls the Queen of Hearts the embodiment of anger. Lewis Carroll the logician brings up many philosophical debates in the books. He uses nonsense to explore concepts such as time, perception, impermanence, duality, identity and the role of language. Using marionettes as subjects echoes this playful approach.
Using the historic process of pinhole photography give the images a particular resonance and there is no denying the connection between the upside down back to front world behind the looking glass and the positive and negative in photography. Not to mention Carroll’s interest in perception and photography.
The installation considers the qualities of different spaces in the garden and uses the shady places for the darker more mysterious photographs, and more open spaces to echo the images of understanding and clarity. Visitors will have a unique experience of the images as the light and the garden change throughout the day and season.
So, if you’re in the Oxford vicinity and enjoy gardens, marionettes, and/or Alice-themed art, you have until the end of August to view this al fresco exhibit.
The Metropolitan Museum in NYC is hosting the U.S. Premiere of a 1 hour 45-minute version of Alice in Wonderland performed by the world-famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre as a holiday treat this December.
Performances are Saturday, December 14 at 2pm and Sunday, December 15th at 3pm. Tickets are $60 for Adults, and $30 for children. For more information, click the image or click here.
To see a slideshow of the marionette designs, click here.
Lewis Carroll came from a large family, and got his start in children’s entertainment and storytelling by writing for and staging plays with his siblings. One surviving example is the puppet play La Guida di Bragia, dating from the early 1850′s. The LCSNA published the text in 2007 with illustrations by Jonathan Dixon - available here for $25. Dixon also spoke at the LCSNA’s Spring 2009 meeting in Santa Fe, followed by a marionette performance staged by Theaterwork’s artistic director David Olson. Good Times! “Together with LCSNA’s multi-talented Jonathan Dixon, Olson talked about the marionette play we would see in the evening: how children’s dolls, rescued from the local Goodwill store, were turned into doll puppets representing the characters of Mooney, Spooney, Sophonisba, and her husband Orlando.” Here’s a photo:
Image from the Table of Contents for the Summer 2012 Art Doll Quarterly
This year, more American puppeteers have tackled La Guida di Bragia. Diane Lewis, who works at the Theatre Arts Department at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, collaborated with her students to create marionettes for the play, and they have been featured in the Summer 2012 edition of Art Doll Quarterly. The article “Characters Behind the Curtain: Instructor Offers History along with the Magic of the Puppet,” by Mozelle Sukut, included “several large illustrations, and descriptions of Lewis’ techniques, philosophy, research, teaching methods, etc.” (reports Mark Richards of the UK Lewis Carroll Society.) The show was never produced, but the marionettes are very charming.
Mrs. Muddles from La Guida di Bragia, from the website of Monique Rea, mfrartwork.com
A photo of the marionettes from La Guida di Bragia, on display at Mission Viejo’s Arts ALIVE Festival