Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Jell-O Art Season!

Oh, Jell-O, you always turn us on!
The season is open! The Radar Angels started meeting in January and every week we get a little closer to a firm narrative and song array for our performance at the Jell-O Art Show. For a fifteen to twenty minute show, we do an immense amount of work, which is code for hilarious joking and stretching our imaginations to make every possible effort to find something funny in our lives of quiet desperation and advancing age. Wait, too negative?

We try super hard not to talk politics but of course it comes up, so we try to pick the most stupid part of politics, like the year we held the Golden Commode Awards, which turned out to be one of our best shows since I've been on stage. There were some fantastic shows in the past, but I didn't pay as much attention then...I was usually in the other room with my t-shirts trying to be supportive but not really getting how it worked. Now I pay attention to all of it, as overwhelming as that can be.


Politics just isn't funny again this year and we're avoiding it. I can't tell you what we are not avoiding, of course, because it is still amorphous and it's more fun to keep it secret. In fact, it changes every week and will keep building until we get on that stage March 28th, but you can know that we are building on the foundation of the theme, which is Jell-O Obsession.

I do not think of myself as an obsessive person but of course the proof is in the Puddin' cups and if anyone is Jell-O-obsessed, I am in that tiny group. Again this year I have agreed to do a workshop.

It will take place on Saturday March 14th and this time the focus will be on craft. We will be Making It! I watched that show on TV with Amy Pohler and Nick Offerman and got inspired to channel it, but rest assured that we will not be in competition with each other and no one will be eliminated or evaluated because there is no good or bad Jell-O art, which you know if you have paid even a little attention for the last 32 years. We will just be using gelatin to play, wet and dried, jiggly and not.

This is a big year for crafting in Eugene, with the 50th Anniversary of Saturday Market on May 9th and a big Makers conference in town the first weekend in June (look up NOMCON, or Nation of Makers.) The Makers movement is a bit like the 70's Craft Renaissance as people reinvent ancient practices and get excited about them as if they were all brand new. Of course it has always been true that people hand-crafted all manner of useful and decorative objects and there is merely a continuum with a few key historical points when other people took notice, Over the last fifty years people in Eugene have been taking notice every Saturday and there has been an amazing and gratifying life to it all, and many of us have built our lives on our micro-businesses and ways to amplify them. The Makers movement happening now is bigger and broader as companies all claim to be "crafting", all the way from McDonald's through Ninkasi and right down to the littlest business on Etsy, but the more the merrier I suppose. Appreciating the ways people create things is postive for all of us and will help diminish the intense consumption practices of western society we hope, if only we don't throw away all that stuff we bring home from the craft store.

I am doing my part, as I rarely if ever throw away anything that could conceivably be used for an art project. Jell-O Art needs a lot of inspiration as it basically involves the one ingredient, gelatin, and some water and some coloring and a plethora of simple tools and accessories, if desired. The dried gelatin I like the best is just gelatin pieces glued together with gelatin and made fabulous, so I know you can do that and could potentially really enjoy this workshop.

I discovered I had two slow-cookers left over from candle-making and each one will hold about a pound of gelatin mixed to my special recipe of 3 ounces of gelatin per cup of water. It will stay molten longer in the cookers so we are planning to supply this glue to about 25 people so they can make things from the hundreds of gelatin pieces I will bring to donate to the artists. I have too many of them and this seems like a great plan. They're all separated by color in plastic tubs, so picture yourself rummaging through them to find the pink petals for a flower or the yellow shapes to make a model of your Labrador or your blue sailboat or whatever you think you can do in three hours. Maybe you will make several things! Maybe we'll even have a Fast Craft Challenge and a Master Craft Project like they did in the show, (I don't remember the actual terms they used) but we will make all the stupid craft puns like they did if we want and anyone who wants to play Nick or Amy should come and help me so I don't get too serious and forget to have any fun. The last workshop was just history and talking about the things I and others have made and it was a little frustrating for the attendees, who wanted to go deeper, so this year we will satisfy in more tangible ways. At least that is the plan!

I need to refine my techniques a little so we don't all just sit there with our fingers stuck together wishing it were more thrilling, but I expect that the participants will astonish me with all the things they think to do that I have never considered, because that has been my experience at every show so far. If people would rather work with almost-dried pieces to take home and dry later, we can do that too. It's fun to see what's going to happen when you cut and twist and stretch the stuff, which happens at about the 24-hours-in stage, so I'll bring some of that. I will also bring some of the "Jigglers" type of firm but still wet Jell-O that can be used for more unpredictable constructions that will probably fall apart on the way home, but will still qualify as Art and Fun. Fair warning, don't go over the railroad tracks on your drive. And do feel free to come prepared if you are already into it, so you can expand your sculptural plans and feed off the energy of the other participants.

I'm pretty confident that we will have some laughs and not all be completely disappointed with the results. Remember, all you have to do to start over is remelt the gelatin and you can begin anew. You can also toss it on the compost pile and feed your neighborhood rodents if you feel a lingering despair. You will have two weeks to restore your faith and get your piece made for the show.

So Save the Date! March 14th!There will be a small charge to participate but let me know if you want a scholarship because I will be happy to pitch in if your budget does not allow such things as craft workshops in trivial and mostly useless object-craft. It's only ten bucks. I'd gladly pay that to see you get a hilarious moment or two of escape from our hellish apocalyptic future and present. Like I always say, "Thank Gawd We Have Jell-O!"

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Working It

The "Workshop" went okay, let's just say "lessons learned." I could feel that people were disappointed that they didn't get to actually play with any Jell-O. You have to blame the RG for that, as I never said anything about participation like the normal expectation of a workshop. In fact, I said I couldn't do that. I wish I would have insisted that it not be called a workshop, but maybe a salon or something. It was kind of an exhibition, with a lot to look at, but the set-up didn't work for that as most people had to sit and listen to me pontificate until they got restless and snuck out. I wanted to call it "Ask the Queen" but you know how that whole Queen persona goes over. (I see you rolling your eyes!)

I tried to show why we couldn't make it there, but that didn't really transmit. I mean, if we were all going to make what I call "Wet Jell-O," the jiggly kind, we would need a wall of refrigerators and an intermission of about 4-6 hours to let it jell. It could be done in two days, but the first day would take about ten minutes while we all stirred the powder into the water. So a jiggle workshop could be done, but over a few days. There will never be a time when I have an extra few days before the Jell-O Art Show.

We're deep into rehearsals, meeting three times this week and two last week to finetune our lines, our songs, our harmonies, and our props and actions. This takes a surprising amount of organization, rewriting the scripts and lyric sheets according to what is decided at each meeting. And we all have to get our costumes together, two or three for the Queen. I usually build on existing costumes but this year I had to start from scratch for one and I'm still not ready. Plus I needed a costume for the workshop.

And I have to make a few props, even though I handed over the set job this year, which I usually love to do but takes several weeks and a lot more room than I currently have in this livingroom full of archives. The ones I am making are fun as can be but also still need to be finished.

I had to dust all the pieces I took to the gallery, and my plan was to leave them there for this weekend, but that turned out to not be a great idea since they have spring break camp and we weren't even in the main gallery. So I will take a different set on Saturday, maybe. Since I don't need examples to teach from, that works. And then my car wouldn't start and I had to ask the neighbor to jump it. (It's fine now, but I almost broke it. I probably should stick to biking.)

I took a lot of headpieces to show the amazing variety but a few people wanted to buy them and I hadn't planned ahead for that. I am not the best at making decisions on the fly so it's best if I leave the ones home that I don't want to let go of. I looked through them today and I do have a few I can sell, but of course now it doesn't seem like enough so I decided about an hour ago to make some more.

I brought some bright yellow gelatin to the show to illustrate the ways you can manipulate it while it is drying, but didn't really get to spend much time on that, so I felt my demo was minimal and not very satisfying. There were some good questions, so thank you to those who were thinking about what they needed to know! I had hoped it would be mostly questions, but of course you have to have some background to ask things.

Some did. I saw quite a few of the regular Jell-O Show attendees there, and I know they wanted a much richer experience. I feel like I want to just keep making excuses. Being a Queen trying to serve my adoring public is really a hard role to play. I disappoint myself if I can't please people.

So next year (of course they want me to do it again next year) I will have to come up with an entirely new plan. Somehow I will have to set people up to make something they can take home. Something simple, maybe, like a flower or another type of object that is a mix of fantasy and representation. A still life. I have a year to think about it.

But today, I have to ramp up my speed and get more things on my list accomplished! I have enough nice pieces to make dozens of flowers but that would be kind of crazy, and anyway I gave away 60 of them last year for the 30th. That was then! I also made and gave away participation awards but that can't happen in this time frame either.

So this year it is up to you. You still have time! Make some Jell-O. I heard it was on sale this week so go ahead and make some Jigglers or find something to use for a mold and make something silly with it. Use my instructions (about 3 oz gelatin per cup of water, mix in cold water, let bloom for 10 min, melt in the microwave for 1 minute at a time, don't let it boil, be careful not to get it on you) and make something out of dried gelatin. Just glue the pieces together with the molten gelatin. Then hold them or clamp them for about 90 seconds and let them dry for a couple of hours.

Just make a start at it, make a beginning. That is what jenesis is all about, jenerating some joy.

You're on your own! I'm busy! See you Saturday at the Jell-O Art Show!


Monday, March 18, 2019

We have T-Shirts!

I managed to get some t-shirts made. After seeing the poster made by an actual graphic artist, I felt a bit intimidated but forged on anyway. We wanted to honor St. Aretha of Franklin this year so I took an iconic photo of her and Jell-O-ized it.

Being lazy, I only wanted to make two screens and print two colors, but it just wasn't enough, so I've ended up taking my Sharpies and coloring in her earrings. I do like it better that way.

I also spent a few hours dusting off a lot of Jell-O pieces for the workshop and show. I like taking out the Jell-O Art Museum for a spin once a year, even though it isn't really the whole thing. I have an attic full of odd pieces that I don't think I'll bring out this year. For one thing, one carload is plenty. I don't want to make too many trips across town, risking things falling apart and getting damaged. Plus dusting and repairing them takes a lot of time I'd rather spend gardening on these beautiful spring days we are having right now.

But shirts had to be made, so here they are. I held back from filling up the open space with more information or drawings. Let it be inferred that music began with St. Aretha. No reason to stick too closely with the theme, anyway.

Original print, without the hand-coloring:
Improved version

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Our Poster

Check out our poster! Artist Brain Hahn of iconographicdesign.com. Truly wonderful!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Better News

Yay! There is now a script and some new energy, so I guess life and Jell-O Art will go on. I'm trying to focus on the t-shirts, and then the Workshop, figuring out my outfits and props I'll need to demonstrate techniques.

I had to take myself in hand and realize I was losing perspective by trying to do too many big things at once. It was kind of paralyzing. I even went to bed one night at 9:00. That seemed to help.

Plus a kind soul (or three) offered some collaboration and things rapidly got back on track.

The hard part was I discovered a huge number of Saturday Market records that were still hiding in their storage area but are now here tempting me. I've kept the boxes closed as hard as I can. That is going to be a much longer, more complicated project than I had been admitting.

So Jell-O Art Show moved to the top of the agenda, and here we go!
My first appearance as a performer 2013

Tacky Food, 20th show, so 2008

One of the best shirts

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Dang it all

One year we did this song "You Don't Want to Know" which was of course about what Jell-O is really all about: offal. It is made from cow hides and hooves, and etcetera, so we like to just pretend that is not true. It was a really fun song, a Led Zepplin parody, and here is a photo of me singing it:
That was 2015.

Then last summer I forced my family to watch our last show video out of a deep need to be patted on the head by them, and as I looked at it from an outsider's view, they commented that it looked like a lot more fun for us than it was for anyone watching. Which stung, but was essentially true. The reason it is fun for our audience and the public is just because they decide it is, and enjoy catching our enthusiasm and delight and willingness to just get up in public and be silly. None of us really want to know why it is fun, we just want it to be fun.

It's serious business to do that, of course, and takes a lot of effort and preparation, but ultimately it is a lot of fun in general and sometimes fun in specifics. Today it isn't.

We have very little time left until the show, and I've got nothing. No Jell-O, no plans to make any, and no script. I did write one, giving up a precious Saturday last week in the snowy isolation to write it, but it died of its own weight last night. It was just too complex and nobody really cared about the Hero's Journey and our political and environmental future and the need to advance a positive one. That is work for another day, not March 30th, if the Angels group is correct. I'm not really upset about losing that script, as it wasn't really workable at all, just a piece of writing I did out of the desperate need for a framework. Editing it wasn't going to work as I had hoped.

Of course I feel that things are far too critical to not address our future, but it is more our job to give people a break from that for 20 minutes in a 3-hour event, than it is to give them any tools to craft it. We just have the same damn tools, music, art, and silliness. We end up doing the same show every year, some version of Jell-O Art is the only thing that matters. Sometimes it saves the world, sometimes it just occupies a gallery.

So I have no real reason to be upset today, except that so many of the Angels have found reasons to drop out of this non-show, including some of our best singers, and now we have no script and people don't even really love the songs we chose, which have no lyrics, most of them. And it's my job to put something together, as soon as possible, and this time it has to be right because there is just no time left. And of course I am totally depleted and discouraged.

So I write. Since this is supposed to be a promotional blog for Jell-O Art, I figure if I expose my deep anxiety and despair, it will just come off as drama and add to the mystique and eventual delight when my personal hero's journey completes itself with some denoument onstage. As if! I want to quit too!

What if there were no performance, or I just went back to not being in it? This will only be my 7th year of being in it. Other people used to write the scripts and do the slogging. Are they not doing it because I came along? Is all of this my fault as well as my responsibility? It is not easy being Queen.

I'm eating lunch as I write this because stuffing my face is about my only joy. I have been getting zero exercise this winter and making zero income (okay, I made $97.50 in the first two months, not counting my pitiful amount of social security) as I am immersed in this big archiving project for Saturday Market. I am passionate about doing it and am making progress (I'm in the 90s now) but I just sit and read every day and night and I am severely out of shape. I don't even have time to get outside except to hang my laundry out in the rare sunlight when we get it, or walk to a meeting. I still have meetings and minutes to type for them. I hate my life in a lot of ways right now. Mostly because it is not healthy to eat mostly bread and canned soup and get no exercise. That is a proven way to make yourself sad and have aching joints and a fuzzy head. But regarding Market, now I know too much and I have assigned myself the impossible task of interpreting the history in a useful and positive way. I should find myself a network of historical writers who have faced these issues of how to describe the warts without damaging the host. It seems a tricky task and at this moment I am definitely procrastinating.

I also watch meetings on  livestream, OCF Board meetings and City Council meetings. OCF just imploded and pretty much burned to the managerial ground, in case you didn't know. I'll try not to say much about it although I'd like to do a full-on rant. If no one affords either the managers or the Board members any respect, there is no center to hold there. The members can sure mess it up, but the people who are doing the actual jobs of governing and managing need to be granted some damn authority and trust! It is a two-way street, trust. Right now I'd like to walk away from that, too.

But I won't. There's an important lesson in there for me to learn about how to be a longterm member of a membership group as your role shifts as it must. There's too much invested to walk away, there's no certainty whatsoever that you will play a future role, and although you have the perspective of seeing the cycles and pitfalls as they dependably repeat, you can't really prevent them from doing that or add much to the solutions when they do. What worked then is probably not going to work this time (though it might!) and you yourself might be a bigger part of the problem than the solution, which is why the young ones always want the old heads to go away. Just retire and let us make some new mistakes! Well, if I could I might. There really isn't a retirement choice built into my life. About my only power is keeping my mouth shut and obviously that is not a skill I possess.

I do have some work to do, that might be fun, making the t-shirts for the Jell-O Art Show. I'm planning to use an image of St. Aretha of Franklin, whose photos online are very jellogenic. You could do almost any of them with a Jell-O mold hairdo or outfit. I don't know what I'll do to her image, yet, but it got me a little excited to go look at her photos and listen to a few of her songs. We're going to do Chain of Fools in the show, just so you can share the anticipation. It's about as political as we will get I suppose. The first photo would be easy but she would look like it was just her head on top of a plate. The second one is pretty Jell-O-rific
but I wouldn't be able to use the arms anyway, although I might try. It's a fun distraction.

So, as you can now see, I am well on the way to putting aside my despair and disappointment and moving into a more adaptive phase. It's what all the true Jell-O Artists do. I am still not going to make any Jell-O though, at least not today.

Have I told you I will be doing a workshop? It will be on March 23rd, at MKAC, just a little session of Ask the Queen. Not the Queen of Soul, the Queen of Jell-O Art. I plan to wing it mostly, as I have no real time to plan anything except a costume. I'm committed to that, so whatever happens with this current drama, that's on the table. See you there!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Promises, promises...



It's painful that I haven't posted in a year and never reviewed last year's show, but here's a video and the event page from Facebook for you. We are definitely working hard on jelling and this year will be even better than last if such a thing is even possible. If you can't go to FB, the video should be on YouTube along with some other vintage Radar Angels video that will be sure to waste a few hours of your precious time, but if you don't laugh I would be amazed. Forgive my embarrasment, but looking ridiculous online is something I am not all the way used to, so will keep practicing. I hear it gets easier every time, and this will only be my 7th performance since being crowned in 2012, so I can look forward to still growing into my role for at least another thirty years.

One new thing I have committed to is an Ask the Queen session at MKAC on the Saturday before the show, from probably 2-4 pm. I'll bring samples of my work, some pieces in progress, and show people how I do it, and will have pounds of gelatin for sale for $10 if you need some. I think it will certainly be free, and the goal is to connect the community, plus get people excited about the things they might do in that last week of March. The show is March 30th, and the "workshop" will be March 23rd. RadarActive will help me, and we'll talk about both jiggly Jell-O and other kinds, and will no doubt reveal all of our secrets and then some. Maybe you'll find out why we use Jell-O names on our pieces instead of our real ones. Failure is an option! Don't wait until then to start playing, but if you get Knox-blocked, maybe we can help.

Our theme this year is Jellojenesis, which is kind of meant to be about the beginning of all things art in Eugene. We thought we'd start with Maude Kerns herself, to whom we are so indebted for modelling how to be a woman in art even though it was way harder back when she and Gertrude Bass Warner were doing it. We want to show how the art community in Eugene springs from the same roots and is so intertwined and codependent (in a good way...) that most of us couldn't extricate ourselves if we tried. Jell-O Art Show, Saturday Market, Art in the Vineyard, Oregon Country Fair, and Holiday Market are only the biggest of the art things happening, and if you've been paying attention, you see that the city Cultural Services programs and the new-ish Art City Group are doing amazing things and really making Eugene sing and dance on the regular. Eugene Celebration is kind of re-created with Sunday Streets and the EUGFUN Parade, and of course we never ceased electing Slug Queens and we always have the raining Slug Queen give a benediction to our Jell-O Art Show. This year's Queen, Queen Incognita (probably has more qualifiers in her name, I expect) will hopefully give us some hopeful hopefulness in her specialty area, climate change, which is also number one on my list of things to do as much about as possible right now. (Side note, you can go see an interview with me here, that doesn't even mention Jell-O, but is still something to waste a little time with in that good way.)

So, I have to go now, as I got a grant from the Lane County History Museum to support my work of archiving 50 years of the Saturday Market history, and my living room will be filled with that until I get a handle on it, and there is quite literally NO ROOM FOR JELL-O! I have handed off the set-making this year to an eminently qualified younger Angel, Ren, who will delight us all with his brilliant (pun-intended) integration of gelatin, light and space, and make us look good on stage, but I still have lots of Jell-O work to do like making sense of our nascent script and practicing some songs and so on. But I will try to post more, though in the meantime, get a friend to let you look at their FB if you are not on it, because Michael Hall is posting tons of Radar Angel photos on this page and there's a lot of gloriosity on there. You might want to think about a costume for the show this year, too. I have to wear quite a few myself and it's one of my favorite parts.

I will leave you with just this one photo, in honor of someone I've been thinking about as I find him repeatedly in the archives. He always dressed up and attended the Jell-O Art Show, as we launch the local Art year around April Fools Day, and he connected all of our groups in a very powerful way and we miss him. Gil Harrison, thank you for all that you have done for us. He's quite subdued here compared to Sue and Judy, but still, always had such style.