Saturday, March 10, 2018


Have you started planning your Jell-O for the show? Here are some photos from last year to get you thinking about the possibilities. As you can see, many people use props and the regular Jell-O brand to express their creative idea. We don't have rules against your oddest of ideas; we don't have rules! You can make what you want. We don't judge. So there is no "Best of Show" although lots of people have their favorite pieces and artists. We have artists of all ages.

I try to give each artist some attention to thank them for participating and encourage them to be proud of their accomplishment. For many, as it was for me, this will be your first chance to put art on a pedestal in a gallery and really call it Art! It's good to let yourself be proud and at the same time embrace the silly, non-competitive, non-evaluative structure of what we do. If you say it is art, it is.

No degrees or credentials are needed. Lots of us use "Jell-O names" just to add to the silliness. We have certainly had many famous artists participate, as well as local celebrities. One man used to bring his exhibits all the way down from Seattle although he was from the edible Jell-O art universe (there is one) and he was surprised that we didn't have that requirement, or winners. He brought five pieces the first year, I think, all wonderful, precisely engineered works of food art, and I think he was disappointed that he didn't win anything. My Queenly view of it is that if we have no winners, we have no losers.

Everyone has had a chance to feel like a loser, and no one needs more of it. I don't like hierarchies and judgements for self-expression. It takes courage to put yourself out there, even in a silly way, so I want that to be the mark of the artist, that simple courage to step up and display your emotional and artistic pursuits to the public. I'd like it if all of us were unafraid to do that.

I make and sell crafts and have for decades, so I have plenty of experience with rejection as well as acceptance. It's still thrilling when someone chooses my products over all the others available, and I won't deny that my ego thrives on that "winning" represented in my sales total. The regular marketplace is competitive but we can work against that by sharing information, being welcoming to other artists, especially if they make what we make. The less we try to dominate the more we all can succeed. You can see the end result of competition in our economy as companies get bigger and bigger, swallow diversity of offerings, and smaller entities are driven from the marketplace for lack of opportunity. My life is not going to go that way, so I work against it as hard as I can.

I never studied art formally, either. I was devastated by the interference of my first grade art teacher, and hardly tried again. My outlets became Hallowe'en costumes, singing, cooking, Girl Scout badges, and other safe spaces for little girls in the 1950s and 60s. When Jell-O Art came along in 1988, I was hesitant, but thrilled with the results. Through it, I found a creative process, and an awareness of what making art was all about, and although it took decades, eventually I was able to embrace the idea that I could be a Real Artist just by doing Real Art. I don't find the art world closed to me, except in the spaces where judgement, credentials, and hierarchies rule (like almost all of it.) So holding the Jell-O Art Show every year and reinforcing that open creative space has been my vital force that keeps me going.

Each one of these pieces was made by someone who went through their own, personal creative process, and had their own emotions about it, which I hope included joy and laughter and a few of those moments when intuition takes over and the internal critic stays silent. That would be ideal. Some people put in incredible amounts of time and effort; other throw it together the morning of the show or the night before. Anything goes! And if you really don't want to make pedestal art, there is always the Tacky Food Buffet! Just make sure it will be safe to eat. Jell-O treats are always popular at the table, and we've seen some spectacular ones. Sometimes they are even very tasty.

Generally the show is lighthearted and fun for all, though of course we are sometimes disappointed when our results don't match our imaginations. Don't give in to your critic. Bring your piece no matter what. We can all learn from your efforts, and the happy accidents that creative chaos can spawn. Just make some Jell-O tonight. Make some magic!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturdays in Winter

I feel pretty guilty about how much I love Saturdays at home in the offseason from Market. Staying in bed past 5:00 am, only needing one cup of coffee, putting on sweatpants instead of rain pants...but April will come. At least this year I don't have to miss Opening Day of the Market for the Jell-O Art Show. That's quite a valuable gift to me.

But that means our show is on March 31st instead of April Fool's Day, as it was last year. That juxtaposition added so much of the joy dimension to our planning. Getting to emphasize our foolishness was a lot of fun, so we could pull out all of the stops and really get down into our silly. It made things so easy. This year, a whole different story.

Being on the tail end of Spring Break means traveling vacationers, including some of our troupe, so we are smaller in number. Which, as you may have noticed when we fill the stage, is not necessarily a bad thing. We usually have way too many of us, and it's always better to have a small number of really committed players than a large number who can't make it to practice and unintentionally throw wrenches in the works. Working from consensus as we do, building that consensus is a task.

So today I am procrastinating re-writing the script. It was jelling, we were getting somewhere, and then forces beyond our control intervened and some parts of it are not going to jiggle properly. I know I will find a way through it, and it's simpler and will make our lives easier, but procrastination is my mode and I'm sticking to it. So today I procrastinate the script, telling myself it is working out in my creative brain even if I am not aware of it. I will definitely get down to the revisions, and it won't be hard, but these Saturdays in the offseason, well, bad habits tempt me.

Like what if I drank a beer or two like I used to in my younger days? When I was building my house I would fiddle around re-arranging my dryrun tile setups, make sketches of the cabinets I didn't really know how to build, or work some more on the tearout of the lath and plaster or the leveling of the ceiling, or the moving around of all of the piles of stuff and work equipment in the way. I still had to have my shop set up in part of the house as I remodeled it. I've been thinking a lot about that 12-year project (no, it isn't really finished, but you know that if you have ever remodeled anything.) The offseason is supposed to be the time when I work on my writing projects (I have two books going on that house remodel) as well as my Jell-O Art. But in the same way as I did last year, I got out the writing project, spread it around the living room, and then got out the Jell-O Art and spread it all out over top of the research. And then the taxes...and then the Jell-O T-shirt design...and of course the things I need to do to get ready for April. Forget making money. I'm living on savings as I like to do all winter.

So this week and weekend I was working on the t-shirt design, fairly leisurely, as it can be more last-minute (and is often better for that), but realized I had to pitch in on the poster. We don't really have a graphic artist in our crew, and we've used up most of the goodwill of the people we know who can do such things for us for the reward of a t-shirt and seeing their work around town for a few weeks. Initially I thought it would be easy to take the shirt image I had in my mind and use it for both projects. It was a good plan, but my technological talents are rather primitive. I kind of know how to use Paint but I am just not tooled up to get the image in printable shape. Spending the time to learn that stuff isn't appealing, but since I already use old-school techniques to do the shirts, I do kind of enjoy the old techniques, cutting the rubyliths, pasting up the components I copy out of books (or the internet) and making collage-style art with tape and scissors.

So I got myself into a weekend project. I'm making a good old-fashioned handmade poster. We'll use a color copier for the final versions, but for the art, I went to my files, sorted through a thousand images in magazines and books, pulled out my Format press-on lettering sheets, which are still mostly useable, and spread that all out on top of the taxes. Because fuck taxes anyway, excuse me very much. I'd pay them if they were actually going to be used to help the common good. I'll pay them. But not today.

Today I will cut and move things around, paper things, and it's pretty fun. I worked on it last night and I'll work on it tonight and tomorrow while I watch the Oscars. You don't want to live in my lving room. It's too cold out to want to plant peas and although the Jell-O is calling me, I have 32 roses already so I can easily make more and there is plenty of time. The poster needs to happen so we can get on with the promotion so we can entice some people to put our show on their calendars. Maude Kerns needs us. They need me, to be specific, to do my Queenly duties and get the fundraiser raising funds.

Sure, we could hire an artist, but we are DIY to the core. I'd much rather pitch in energy and time than money. I might complain some because I have too much to do, but I really think this poster project will be fun. It will look amateur, like all of my work always does to me, because I will probably never get over my self-taught lack of real credentials, even though obviously I am a real craft professional by now. It might look refreshingly amateur. Who needs another clever use of Photoshop and slick graphics that doesn't have a human element in it? My poster will definitely stand out, no question.

And thanks to Anne for mentioning interference powder. I had no idea such a thing existed, but now I get to play with it. When I get tired of cutting up paper, I'll make Jell-O. Yay! It's Saturday and I don't have to go anywhere! 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Jiggly or Not, it's Still Pretty Easy

I can tell the energy for Jell-O is rising, just looking around my living room. Once I realized I could and should make gold Jell-O in keeping with our title "Jell-O Goes Gold" I went a little wild. My plan is to make 30 gold roses for the 30th show, but today will be the test to see if I can even make ten.

I bought a lot of extra gelatin for people who might have ambitions...and will sell some of it. For while I had little starter kits with instructions and FAQs and I hope to do that again soon. In rewriting the instructions I came up with far too many details so I will start putting things in here for people to follow as they explore the medium.

The main point of the whole thing is that you should take the time to play with art. The medium isn't as important as the process: the time you spend in a fun zone just creatively solving problems and learning about what works and doesn't. It's good for you to play. Jell-O has wonderful, cheerful properties that make it appealing on many levels.

So I recommend starting with a few boxes of regular Jell-O mix...I try to buy the off-brands so that the big Kraft product won't dominate but they probably own the off-brands now too. So mix some up according to the package directions, and eat it if you still want to eat some. As it gets more art and less food, it also gets less edible. But have at it.

Then mix up a couple more with decreasing amounts of water, to see how the properties change. You get less jiggle, but also less tendency to melt at room temperature. If you like, mix in more Knox or plain gelatin instead of using less water. I am pretty sure the little Knox packets contain about a quarter-ounce of gelatin. So add one, or two, as you experiment.

Mix it up in cold water, stirring thoroughly. It has to sit and "bloom" for about ten minutes to absorb the water so it can then dissolve completely. Then melt it in the microwave or on the stove top, stirring. Pour it into molds for easiest results, and let it sit in the refrigerator if it's the jiggly kind, or just let it sit if it is the thick kind. You can use lots of things for molds, or make your own, but plastic is nice as it is flexible, which makes it easier to unmold your creation. I've used candy molds a lot for little jewels for the Tacky Food...just a bit tough to chew if you want them to unmold well. Just make up a recipe and try it out. You are supposed to be creative...not following a recipe. If you mess it up, remelt it and start over.
This artist used Jell-O as textile dye

Getting it out of the mold is the first problem to solve. Putting the mold in hot water briefly is a time-honored method but if you make it thick enough you can pry it out of the mold with your fingers without breaking it apart, when it is at the right stage. You will have to experiment. Then you can try carving the stuff, putting it though a ricer, whatever you want to do to make whatever excites you to make. I've tried many things that didn't work as well as some that were pretty exciting.

Eliminating the Jell-O brand also gets rid of the sugar and chemicals that make it attractive to ants, which is one reason I like to just use plain gelatin. I put dye in it, so it isn't edible, but without the sugar it doesn't taste good anyway. I like having more colors to choose from too, as not all the food colors blend well or end up that pretty.

The kind of art that I've been making, with dried gelatin, is a specialty with some extra skills and problems. My recipe is 3 ounces of gelatin per cup of water. I put two cups of cold water in a quart canning jar (broken glass and molten gelatin are really messy and dangerous) then stir in the gelatin two ounces at a time, stirring until it  has no lumps. Then after it blooms I melt it for two minutes in the microwave, then a minute or two more until it seems clear. Skim off the foam at the top and take out any lumps. Try not to get it all bubbly.

Then I pour it into smaller canning jars and add some dye (you can use all kinds of things for color) and pour it in thin (less than 1/8th inch) layers in pyrex pie plates. I have a whole set, as the dried gelatin can be strong enough to take chips right out of glass, so you don't want to use the same dishes for food. I put those on top of the piano and entertainment center where it is warm and dry (I have electric heat) and then some hours later I start to tend it.
This piece ended up on top of my helmet in the parade

You have to get it out of the dishes at the right time. Ideally you get it all in one piece, so there isn't any residue or small pieces to go down the drain. I imagine that molten gelatin does not stay molten long in your drain and I'm sure my waste system has a layer of impossible hardened junk in the bottom of the pipes. Avoid that. So, at about eight to twelve hours after pouring it in, I try to get it out.

One of the best ways I've discovered is to cut into the center where it is still not dried, and try to get my fingers underneath the piece and gently encourage it to let go of the glass. It stretches a little and tears itself, but sometimes I can get the whole thing out cleanly. Other times I run my fingernail or a knife around the edge and get it out from there. I let it tear into pieces, as I make mostly flowers and leaves so the shapes work well if they are varied and have not-sharp edges. You can of course cut out shapes or do whatever you like.

Another method I use is swirling the gelatin around in a bowl to coat the sides, which takes a little patience as it slowly cools and jells in place. The bowl-shaped pieces are perfect for folding into flowers. I even have some plastic bowls printed like lettuce leaves which make great petals. I prefer the gloss of the glass molds, but plastic can be almost as shiny and the top side is shiny in either case.

After you get it out, you have to tend it for a couple of days, turning it over, watching for mildew to develop (remelt it quickly or throw it out...the moldy stuff smells really bad fast) and shaping or twisting the pieces according to what I want. You can do quite a lot with it in various stages of dryness, so have fun with that. You want to wait until it is not sticky, but not too stiff either. Once it is completely dry, you can still bend it sometimes, or you can get it slightly wet to manipulate it.

Gelatin that doesn't come out the way you want it can be remelted and used again. When I fasten the pieces together I just use melted gelatin and a few tools like little spoons and lab ware. It's a good excuse to buy beakers and things if you have a fascination for lab tools like I do. There's a lot of science involved in gelatin art.

That makes it really fun to do with kids and if you are having a hard time getting into it, I suggest involving a younger person. Having a display for the show is a great goal, but it is also fun to make it to eat (if you can bear to eat it...I can't now) or play with from a child's perspective. For the show, anything goes. You do not have to address the gold theme, or the 30th thing, and people often do political, environmental, or silly statements about their lives. It's free expression at its best. If you are already an artist, try using techniques or materials from your other media.

It's not to early to start. Sometimes I cruise the goodwills for molds, pie plates, or fun items to use as props. It can be a good launch into a concept or idea. And if you like to eat it, there are a ton of great recipes for traditional Jell-O salads and desserts and casseroles and whatevers. The Tacky Food table is a great place to show your creativity and tacky taste...just be safe with that stuff.

Here's a great page if you want to know more about this odd product that is still popular despite the fact that most kids raised in Eugene don't know what it is. There's a lot online. For awhile our show had a lot of traction on the internet but it's a little hard to find with the explosion of those gelatinas. Still, I don't think the Golden Age of Jell-O is over yet. Obviously, in Eugene, it's not over.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Jell-O in the Headlines

The Jell-O Art year has begun! Of course, for the Queen it never really ends, but the period between January and April is the height of the season and that's when I really focus in. We met last week for the first brainstorm, and as usual, we have no shortage of ideas!

I will have no shortage of gelatin, either, as I just purchased 25 pounds. I get it on as it is only about $8 per pound. I looked around and it is now a gourmet food and health product with much higher prices, one reason I overbought. Another reason is that another artist contacted me saying she would want to buy some. Most people find a pound is plenty, and I will sell it at cost (once it arrives) so email me at if you would like to get some.

We ought to give Chuck Shumer an award for the headline quote "Negotiating with (you know who) is like negotiating with Jell-O." Negotiating with Jell-O is such an apt description of what we do that it would make a good theme, but let's just leave it as a subtext for now, since March 31st is a long way away and there might be even funnier jokes by then. Here's our Facebook event!

We did pick a title which is also a theme and a starting place, but let me remind you we have barely gotten started. Generally divergence is wide with this pursuit of silliness. But here it is:

Jell-O Goes Gold!

Celebrating 30 Years

It's nicely open to interpretation, honors our age, and fits with several of the performance ideas we are considering. Sorry, way too soon to drop any hints, as there are at least three viable ideas that I wouldn't want to influence anyone about. But conveniently I bought the most glitzy gold glitter apron at Holiday Market, so at least one costume is on the rack. Costumes are probably the most fun part, so I will have more than one, but it's nice to have a centerpiece for an update on my Queen costume set. I may need to appear here or there before the show.

The show will be March 31st! I'm happy about that as Saturday Market's opening day is April 7th so I can go to both and my Market friends can come to the Jell-O Art Show if they can pry themselves out of their last Saturday of seclusion in their caves. At least it limits one excuse.

I have been promising some kind of review of last year's show, which in the post-show rush I never did write. I have tons of photos thanks to Ben Davis of Maude Kerns Art Center, who takes great

photos. His stills of the show are so vivid they almost have music...the sequence follows the performance really well. I'll add just a couple to show some of the most creative costumes and characters. I will say that this year we expect to have a lot of guests and celebrities, as it is a big deal to have a 30th show. I'd love it if a lot of artists came back from the past and did a piece or at least came to remind me about the masterpieces they did back when, because I forget so many and wasn't always paying a lot of
attention in my narcissism. I had that going on even before I was Queen Gelatinaceae of the Jell-O Art Realm. That didn't even happen until six years ago. I go all the way back to the beginning and have exhibited in ever Jell-O Art Show, though I've only been in the performances since 2013, not counting my surprise coronation in 2012. I also make shirts...and am the proprietor of the Jell-O Art Museum which is real but packed up in my project room. This would be the year to bring it out!

It sounds like way too much work to go through photos and highlight the creativity of last year at this point. Doing it as a series of posts might work a lot better. I've exhausted myself in past years chronicling my creative process and instructions for making the sculptures but I know people need a little inspiration and direction. I will still do this, of course, because I watch Victoria on PBS and I know about the responsibilities of royalty. Plus if I don't do it, who will?

Yes, of course, David Gibbs will post his stuff on FB and Instagram, which we are so grateful for, but mostly other artists slave away silently in their studios, often at the last minute, and then they don't really want to talk about it. Catching them at the show is the best way to really learn about gelatin art. The range of interpretations is actually astounding, and that's where you'll see it. There was a recent sighting of some of Celeste LeBlanc's work in Guardino Gallery in Portland...she is a serious artist who knows the medium very well and has inspired many, including me, so maybe she will post some things on Facebook. You can find me there by my real name, Diane McWhorter, plus my Gelatinaceae page, and while I'm on the subject you can also read my other blog, , if you want to know more about other aspects of my life and art, or random things that only tangentially include Jell-O.

People send me things like this because they appreciate tacky. The Tacky Food Buffet is an important part of the show and something we should feature while gourmet gelatin is still can be very creative and way fun and there is always a crowd scarfing up the edible gelatin-based offerings on the tables. For the record, I tried making those gelatinas with the flowers in them and they are pretty hard to do. With the right tools, which I am sure you can purchase, they might be more fun and beautiful than the ones I made which I apparently failed to document. I threw them on the compost, and brought maybe a few of the most recognizable ones to the show that year, but it was 2014 or 2015 and I am not that tempted to master that form. Feel free to have at it. I would accept your tools if you want to throw them away in frustration. One never knows what future inspirations will take hold.

For instance, what if you didn't make flowers inside those, but other bugs or profiles of celebrities or cows of history or something? Just encase it in a clear dome and you have both an art piece and a cool thing to serve. Clean your kitchen first if you want people to eat it. (Seriously. Use a commercial kitchen if you have access to one if you are going to serve Jell-O to the public.) Or just don't even try for edible. I find if I don't include sugar the ant problems are fewer and the rats will eat it regardless. Yes, I actually saw a rat on my compost pile eating my gelatinas after I threw them out. I had rats before they were so popular. Hey! A rat in a dome would be fun! Probably less fun if it is a dead one from your yard, but then hasn't been done yet!

Okay, just some actual helpful info and then I'll go dream up some real ideas. I mostly make dried gelatin, but if you are new to this, the jiggly kind is the easiest to start with. Use less water than the directions, use cold water, let the gelatin bloom for about 5-10 minutes, and then melt in the microwave or on the stove. If you mix in hot water you get more lumps that are hard to dissolve. You can use Jell-O brand, or Knox or whatever offbrands you can find (which I encourage, so Kraft doesn't dominate the market with no competition although no doubt they have bought up all the competing brands by now.) I was going to try agar agar but it is hellishly expensive. Mostly those work fine and you might have to experiment a little to get the right recipe to retain the jiggle but get some structural strength for your probably ambitious plans. Molds are the easiest way to get shapes, and you can use all kinds of things for molds, though it helps if they are flexible so you can get the stuff out without having to warm it or break it up. Carving it and fastening pieces together is possible (molten gelatin is good glue) but it isn't very cooperative, as you'll discover. Slippery and slidy and you still have to get it to the pedestal.

Gelatin can be a frustrating medium to negotiate with, (and just try nailing it to the wall) but I enjoy letting it cause me random problems to solve like most art media do. At our show, props and non-gelatin additions are just fine, and you don't have to stick to the theme or any other kind of rule. We really don't need rules or an evaluative critical system, because the whole point is to have fun with art and everyone should be free to have the maximum fun. No one will say your Jell-O Art is bad. Believe me. The crowd that comes to this show is one of the most accepting, appreciative and loving crowds ever.

The recipe I use for dried is 3 ounces powder per cup of water so it's very stiff and nonedible, but I
can do a longer post about the process. It's simple if you have a hot dry place to dry it before it gets moldy (cleaning again...I put it on top of my entertainment center and piano) as you have to tend it, turning it over to dry both sides. People have used food dehydrators and other methods so be creative and find a process that works for you. I use dye and glue the pieces together with molten gelatin, and the last few years I've put it under glass so it doesn't get dusty.

I also make fascinators by adding hairbands to big flowers, and I might make more of those. It's an easy way to start, and fun and pretty.

So, you have my royal permission to get started. Let me know if you have questions, or post on the event page for group discussion. Have fun!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Jell-O Art Universe

Jell-O Art show 2017
So much has been happening in my world of Jell-O Art! To get the apologies out of the way, I see that I never posted my after-the-show post in early April...I composed it in my head, collected the photos, and then launched full-on into my parallel universes of Saturday Market, Oregon Country Fair, and all the rest of the duties that fall into my lap. I owe all the artists who participated a debt, most especially the other Radar Angels who put on such a good performance and gifted us all with so much fun and so many laughs. I do hope to go back and do that story...some precious moments and lots of great photos. But here it is August and even more glorious events have now moved from anticipation to completion. And there is absolutely nothing on the Jell-O Art horizon unless I decide to add some into the Kim Still Day at Saturday Market (August 26th) or some other deal. I might bring some down to put on that dreadful chain-linked construction site on the West Block, or maybe not. If you are a yarn-bomber, please organize your network to decorate that new deck...we market people need to make it our own somehow, and art is always our way.

And on the subject, while I'm at it, is it just me, or does the term "arts and crafts" ring dissonantly in your ears, fellow craftspeople? Do you share my distaste for being seen as a "vendor" in a "stall"? I'm channeling our champion of old, Gil Harrison, when I say call us artists, artisans, call us crafters if you must, but please focus on our highest aims, not our commonest? I do not vend. I bring my inspired creations to display for public acclaim and make myself completely vulnerable with the goal of appreciation of my efforts and those of my membership. Selling my wares is a tiny part. Self-expression, creating beauty in our daily lives, sharing wonder and delight, furthering the accomplishments of master craftspeople, creating community: so many other goals are in my mind when I pedal myself downtown. We create our culture, so let's keep trying to elevate it. Arts and crafts is what they do at the kids table. We are a gem on the Park Blocks, a precious and fragile brief occurrence of the moment, different every time, a day that cannot be replicated. I don't want that to be reduced.
Sunday Streets booth

But I did attempt to "vend" at Sunday Streets, in half my booth, while in the other half I brought my best, most delicate and unbelievable gelatin art sculptures, and I'm guessing you missed it. Here you are, a blurred and shadowed facsimile of a display you will probably not get another chance to see. Next April Fools, (probably March 31st, 2018) we will put on our 30th Jell-O Art Show! I brought a bit of a retrospective downtown and in the parade, with the great help of my fellow Radar Angels, and it was a technicolor sight to see!
Ready to go

I always feel like I have to explain the Jell-O Art, but very simply, the gelatin I make (which is air-dried, glued with gelatin pieces made into actual sculpture with meaning and wonder) is an art metaphor as well as being actually art. It's the purest art I do, much less productive than screenprinting and much less consumable (though I have fascinators for sale for the brave and glamorous.) It is technically edible, yes. It is a medium for self-expression and it is the medium that allowed me to be a real artist. We put on our aprons and bring Jell-O out of the kitchen, show how accessible and easy (just add water) art-making can be, and we promote outsider, non-credentialed, un-buyable, non-professional ART in it's purest forms. We say everyone can be an artist, put your creation on a pedestal in a real gallery, and put yourself at the same level as every other artist in the land. You can do this when you are five years old with your gramma, and you can do it when you are eighty-five years old from your wheelchair. We do it so you can do it. All of you.

And this Queen thing is the same: you too can be a Queen in your own self-created universe, and sometimes you can get other people to go along with it, too. When I was crowned in 2012 by my fellow Radars and Jell-O Artists, it was a gift, but I earned it with my dedicated application of a creative process to a silly, uncooperative medium and to the way I built an art life around that. I've been in every single Jell-O Art Show and each year I try hard to be original, to test a boundary, to say something meaningful from my inner and external life experience, and I put it out there for everyone else. As ego-free as I can manage.

My coronation, 2012 Jell-O Art Show
Yes, I like a little appreciation for it, and I have certainly embraced this role of being the chief promoter and the one who can be depended on to dress up, knock myself out, and put my whole heart into it for free. I spend a lot to do that, in time and resources, and it makes me very, very satisfied and full. It's the main focus of my whole winter, when Saturday Market is closed, and the Opening Day of Market and the Jell-O Art Show are dual harbingers of the glorious advent of the creative year, the springing forth of another wonderful series of accomplishments and shared community elevation. I don't do it for myself. I do it for my city and my people. And for strangers. Okay, I do get a kick out of it. It's special!

Load Number One
Being in the Parade and having a booth at Sunday Streets was a peak life experience, even though it went down rather quietly and even humbly perhaps. I got up at 5:00 am on a Sunday after working until 1:00 am on my display, bike and float, (and that was after my 14-hour Market day) and rode my goods and sculptures downtown to set up my booth on Oak Street. I dashed back home to costume, build the float, and get to the parade grounds by 10am. I barely made it. We paraded, I stood in the booth from noon to four and talked art to the few strangers who happened by (and a few friends) and then I schlepped it all home again in two big trailer loads on my bike. As far as I know I was the only human-powered "vendor" on the Park blocks, not that anyone noticed except the guy from HPM who took my photo. (Human Powered Machines at CAT made my wonderful bike trailer.)
Float in the "driveway"

But it's no one's job but my own to promote myself and it seems that the harder I do that, the more it puts me into the "crazy lady who must be ignored" category. Friends took photos, but despite my clear signs and careful presentation, I felt invisible. I know, it seems impossible. But here you have the recording of the historic event, which I do not think will be repeated. I do not believe I am the crazy lady. I will fight that to my last breath. I bring you pure and simple joy and it is not really about me. This is something I repeat almost daily: this is not about me. I represent.

As with any gift, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whatever you think, you can take it or leave it. Plenty of people do let me know I am seen (like the woman who told me I was quite beautiful when I wear a tiny cocktail dress and lipstick...apparently at other times I am not.) Plenty of people do get the point of the gelatin...the ephemeral nature of it, the taming of the wild medium that rarely does what you want it to do, the inexpensive accessibility of it, the empowerment of the 50's housewife legacy reversal, all of it. Plenty of people encourage me and would be sad to see it end, and I am committed for life to my Radar Angels in whatever form we take. Jell-O Art made me an artist. I can't quit it, but I might take my light back under that bushel for awhile. Until the winter anyway.

But here you can see that we paraded our 30 years right down Broadway, that we were stupendously glorious and talented and determined (despite being drowned out by the boombox behind us) and that we did represent, amazingly, unselfishly, and in full color. I was so over-excited by it all that I went into my usual persona-state that is not really me, not too grounded in daily reality, but in that exalted space of bigger-than-life that attracts most performers, so if I didn't see you in the crowd, or didn't thank you for your cheers and stole your photos without attribution, I'm giving you a lame excuse here. It was a big deal on my day off on July 30th, 2017.
Radar Angels! 30 years of the Jell-O Art Show!

I don't know if I've ever been more exhausted than I was that night when it was all finally stowed away at home again. I don't know if my feelings are always this mixed...I suppose reading back in all my after-show posts the same ambivalence would come through. It's hard to make yourself vulnerable time after time, for me twice a week all season, with the big explosions of Fair and  Jell-O Art Show, it's confusing and draining and exhilarating and gorgeous, and I'm the luckiest person in the world and also maybe the least-confident Queen in the Realms, (though guessing the Slug Queens might include a few on that level).

And yes, we got some recognition at the Coronation of Babosita of the lime-green embroidery. She had to work pretty hard too for those cheers and accolades. I had a bit of Jell-o-sy going when that Knight got all the attention for
driving down from Portland, but I love him too so I will get that put away soon (though it was sexist, just sayin'). I don't have to have all the attention. It is not about me (repeat a few more times.) I am the dependable, put in the thirty years, put on the lipstick (don't do it without a mirror ever again, Queenie) and the fancy dress, get yourself downtown, knock yourself out, and then get up the next day and do it again. I do get my rewards. I'm not complaining.

It's just that I have to write about every little aspect so we can all appreciate ourselves that much more. David has paid his dues on the vulnerability scale. He was glorious. We just had to sit there and heckle, too, not get up and sing and dance and get voted on. We don't have to be evaluated and scored, thank the goddesses. We're the luckiest royalty of all. Talk about no rules. So I certainly don't fault him in making the most of his (mere) 20 years.

In the Realm of  Gelatinaceae, there is only one rule: put your whole, honest and true heart into it. Get up and add the water. Throw it on the compost of society's evaluative critical system and mix it up again. We didn't win the cash in the parade. (We did get runner up though.) I didn't draw the crowds to my once-in-a-lifetime downtown "stall" number +25. I didn't get in the paper and didn't get on TV. Their loss. A loss to our fair city. There were people who didn't even know there was a parade.

only photo I could find of me
But I know I am there in the culture of our town, the real culture that brings us our weird and wonderful and solidifies our quirk. I definitely bring the quirky. And I really do it for you. All of you. And really, I do know you appreciate it. We all need it, now more than ever. Joy is what makes everything else worthwhile.

Plus after all these years, what would I do without it? Watch TV? Write my book? Oh yeah, I might write my book(s). They need to be written. Perhaps that will be my display for the 30th. No one else can write it, after all, the Book of Jell-O Art. The book of the intersection of serious play, real creativity, pure bliss and out-of-time transcendence. Someone could write their version. But the book I would write, should write, might write, that would be all about me. The trick would be to bury that in there so that you couldn't tell. You'd think you got a piece of it, anyway, you could fall into my story and think it was the real story, but of course the minute I finished it, the story would keep going and become another story. So here's your taste, here's the short version from August 2017.

There will be other chapters. A sequel. Or not. We'll see. In the meantime, if you have one of my art pieces, dust it off and think about the value of something you probably got for free. Go find something else at Market and pay the artist for it, and take your place in this grand universe. It can't really happen without you. And do remember how grateful I am, how humbly I thank you for your support. There is no Queen without her public. It's really all about you.

And me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Show Week: Half over!

Crunch time. My sculpture is not finished yet, and this is as late as I have ever been since I started doing the dried gelatin pieces. It's almost too late, but I have lots of parts and a pretty clear vision of what I want, so it's a matter of getting it glued together and dried so it can go into its bell jar and then make it to the show intact.

I may have to take a repair kit, as it is a long way across town. Not a few pieces have failed to survive getting from kitchen to gallery, as many legends will tell. Someone should collect tales about the Jell-O Art Show, before we completely forget our history. Maybe next year for our 30th show we should do that! I'll put it on my list.

My Jell-O Art Show list is long, full of details about things I need to remember for that concentrated day. One year I got halfway there without my that's one aspect. I have three Queen costumes planned for this year, with accessories to swap out and strict timing requirements. When the show itself opens at 5:00, I will have been there for many hours setting up the stage, props, staging details, my t-shirt table, the many headpieces I will bring in case someone wants to own one ($25) and display for those. Sometimes I bring an archival piece or two but probably not this year, since somehow I have to fit a throne into my car. 

Quickly, since many of you are working on pieces or still planning to, I will remind you of a couple of pro tips. It helps to make your Jell-O stronger than the package directions for any kind of stability in your piece, and to keep it from melting at room temperature. Any extra amount of clear gelatin (like Knox) will help. Those little packets have about a quarter ounce in them I think, so you will need a lot of them to make a difference, plus you can decrease the amount of water to help. If you are using Jell-O brand, you have a lot of chemicals and sugar in there too, which you don't need, since you are presumably not going to eat your sculpture. I buy plain gelatin powder online in bulk to make mine, adding only dye, but some artists believe that the sugar in Jell-O brand helps add strength. I use up to 3 ounces of powdered gelatin per cup of water, but you may not need that much.

The other thing is to know that gelatin has to absorb water a little (called "blooming") before it is ready to get to a liquid state. Mix it up in cold water, even though the package directions on the edible kind say to use hot first. Use hot first if you are not adding any extra gelatin, but if you are, let it bloom in the cold water for about ten minutes and then melt the whole mess. I use the microwave but you can do it on the stovetop as well. Stir it a lot. Get all the graininess dissolved and then skim off any foam that forms on top. 

Molds are best for quick work and if you make it strong enough you can pry the pieces out of the mold with your fingers, or try the slight melting technique of sitting the mold in hot water for a few seconds. You can glue broken pieces with molten gelatin but it's best if you plan for intact pieces with few seams, as the pieces tend to separate along their natural lines of formation. Anything can be used as a mold, but flexible plastic might be the best. Scour the goodwills for odd things to use as molds. I've found tons of old molds too, as people don't tend to value them as they used to. You can use glass and harder containers but be warned that gelatin is strong and can chip glass by pulling it that hard. It's truly amazing.

You can also use anything for color, including food coloring, dye, or candy ingredients. Be creative. This is supposed to be fun. As far as making a statement goes, I like to do that, but I don't always connect with the theme. So far my piece does not connect with fools, but it could by the time I finish, and be reflected in the title. Strange artisty things happen when I work on mind flows in directions unknown and sometimes unarticulated. We'll see!

I finished the shirts on Friday and am still working on a few props, plus still learning lines and songs for the performance. I must say this Queen position has been an opening to so many levels of  the Jell-O Art Show that I did not appreciate in the same way before I was crowned. I've always done the art and shirts and promoted the event, but now I have a kind of maternal or benevolent view of the happening. I feel responsible, and the pressure to be clever has been hard on me. 
Those Slug Queens use more glitter than I do

Being able to act from a persona is very helpful, though. I do what the Queen of Jell-O Art wants to do, speak like she would speak, guide like she would guide, and try to empower my public and my fellow artists. She's not autocratic or demanding, unless that furthers the fun of the narrative, and she is a very human queen. She wants to be loved (from a distance) and wants to serve well. She needs no King and never will, in fact she resists power even while trying to use hers for the forces of good. It's a position that is open to interpretation but at the same time somewhat circumscribed in that many things are expected of her. 

This is a Knight of my realm, being far too resplendent.

I do find that when I rise to those expectations through her, the results are generally pleasing. I got to receive an award for the Radar Angels from the Mayor last year. I get to be as royal as I please as long as I ignore those who don't take the whole thing seriously. And I also get the option of not taking the whole thing too seriously!

And it is supposed to be fun! Repeat that when you have gelatin all over your kitchen and your piece keeps slipping away from you. If  Jell-O makes you her fool this year, no matter. It will be over quickly, and you will get another chance next year to be in similar straits. Don't worry about it. Bring your failure and put it on a pedestal, and you will find it looks a lot more successful in context. Art is not supposed to be perfect, it's supposed to be creative. Do your best to open your synapses and let your brain tell your hands and eyes what it sees. 

Here's your chance to do real art,to take it to any level you like. It's all up to you. I will love it no matter what. So when you see an old lady in a funny outfit come to ask you about your piece and your artistic process, don't be afraid. I am not going to make a fool of you, although you are welcome to that option. And don't mistake me for one of those other slimy Queens, the Slug Queens, though there will be several of them there trying to be important in a realm that is clearly that of Queen Gelatinaceae of the Jell-O Art. 

Just kidding, they're not slimy. I am truly grateful to those who show up, costumed in style, to honor our show.  If there were not Slug Queens setting a graceful example, I would not have my own position, very likely, and wouldn't know what to do with it. And anyone who goes around in lime green and chartreuse gets accolades from me. I am lucky in that I get all the Jell-O colors, which I interpret to be all the colors. My slime comes in a rainbow.

We will see what our designated Slug Queen representative, Sitara Slugshine, brings for our delight. She will appear around six to give her Benediction, so come early. It's also best to see the pieces if you come early. At 7:00 when the Radar Angels perform, it is a bit hard to see the art, and at 8:00, the big trash cans come out and everything gets put away. So see you there! 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Telling Secrets

The Radar Angels have always tried to keep the performance details a secret. This comes from the Olden Days, and at the 29th year we are qualified to have Olden Days. It is not the 29th Annual, to be precise, because one year was skipped, but anyway that's a lot of shows.

The secrecy is from the other big Radar Angel activity, being a part of the entertainment at the Oregon Country Fair. It seems, according to legend, that if the details of the show got out, the Vaudeville people would steal them and scoop the Angels by putting them in their own shows. Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery, but it makes for some lively fun, and probably there were leaks. Leaks are inevitable with secrets, of course.

And details of the performance are fun, and I can't resist. The idea behind the pictured prop came from newish Angel Michael Hall, bless his heart and his aorta too. I loved the idea of Borscht-flavored Jell-O and it works with the theme. I was going to save it for a surprise at the show but then, in agony for a better t-shirt idea, I decided to base my shirt on it.

It won't look quite like this full-colored giant box but the Fool's Jell-O theme makes sense here. Like if Cherry Jell-O was gold, this would be fool's gold. Pretty obvious that anyone who eats it would feel kind of foolish...really, a dessert made of beetroot? 

I don't know why not. I plan to make some for the Tacky Food Buffet, actually, because I'll bet it will taste as good as any of the other flavors and concoctions that people bring to the Buffet. It certainly won't be the strangest thing ever eaten in that room at Maude Kerns. If you are very lucky someone will bring something even more unusual and you will get to taste it. It depends. All the food is supposed to be legally edible which means made in a commercial kitchen with all efforts to not make anyone actually sick. It's fine to gross people out. You know when you see that fake kitty litter with the tootsie rolls you get a little thrill out of eating a tootsie roll. If you like them. People always love biting the heads off the icons, after all. We live for some safe risk.

So yes,  a teaser prop like the pussyhat was, and maybe I'll post more if I actually get down to it and make some. I have a brain full of ideas and somewhat less will to manifest them. I hope I'm only procrastinating because there's a fantastic idea in there trying to find the way to the light. I'm certainly not a lazy person...but I do admit to taking my time to get around to some things. Deadlines help.

And April Fools' Day is fast approaching. It's practically here, really. I have a lot to practice today, songs I am not quite to the harmony on, costumes I have to figure out how to get in and out of. Props that would be nice if I would put in the time to get them made. T-shirt art that must be drawn. There's no turning back though, as the shirts arrived and await me. 

I had to write a post though. I know there is at least one artist out there thinking and stirring. A Slug Queen or two is dusting off a crown and many people are thinking they might attend if they don't have anything more fun to do at the end of spring break. 

It's a fun day, usually, April Fools. Lots of people have great pranking abilities and we all need a laugh. There will be that short window of opportunity to do it with gelatin, and many wild ideas are crossing minds out there. They have certainly not all been done before. Yours hasn't, that's for sure. Do it. Fool us. Fool us twice. No shame will be involved, and how many places in your life can you be sure of that? Not many these days. Plus, you can find out all the secrets and decide for yourself if they are worth keeping. 

That zeitgeist, she is hard to grasp. We're trying to pin it down, but that might not happen until the very last minute. You might want to see it, through the Jell-O lens.