Another self portrait – but this time transmogrified by the surprise appearance of an old friend. The deep shadowing of the light I was using transformed into a clown’s painted face and Zucchini returned to remind me of an alter-ego almost forgotten. I was once, in the ’70s, a member of a traveling troupe of circus performers: The Aphrodesian Dancers. We were funded by a Local Initiative Project grant (LIP) from the Canadian government. We traveled in an ancient school bus – a twentieth century Family of Saltimbanques visiting summer craft fairs and rock concerts all over British Columbia.
The group’s instigator and artist, Tresham Gregg, created large and magical Shamanic masks from wood and metal. As the dancers in his show we wore these masks strapped to our bodies with leather straps – difficult to dance in but visually enchanting. In our adult related performance we dancers appeared symbolically as Rain, Wind, Fire, and other elements and also as various mythical deities and spirits. The theme of the dance was dark and violent – a familiar tale of a hero descending to hell to complete a quest, struggling and killing a variety of evil characters, demons and beasts. The live soundtrack was supplied by a rag tag group of hippie musicians who followed the circus from town to town.
To balance the dark side a group of us dancers created a Children’s Theater performance with an Alice Tea Party, a clown and various other fantasy figures.
I played Zucchini, a mute, Hobo Clown and I was also the White Rabbit. It was Zucchini who revisited me while drawing this self portrait. This is an aging Zucchini sans wig and props. He is older and wiser now but still sadder on the inside than the outside. He was a long abandoned ghost but now I welcome him back into my life with his miming humour, Harpo squeeze horns, clumsy juggling and battered old suitcase.
How much of our persona is symbolized by the Clown, the Joker, the Trickster? Contemporary books and movies have turned us against the Clown figure as an evil presence but originally was he not the Jester in the court of Kings who was often the only voice of reason?
Perhaps we should return to the ancient custom of a Jester’s presence in our governing institutions – not only for comedic relief but also to add some much needed non-linear wisdom…?
Credits: You can see more of Tresham Gregg’s artwork at tresham.com
Picasso’s painting from Google Images
Photos of Aphrodesian Dancers by Clinock.