Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Jell-O Art Show Show (Not the real thing though.)

Such a beautiful sunny day yesterday, keeping so many of my people in their gardens and back yards, or biking with their families, allowing them only brief moments inside, which may or may not have included dropping by MKAC for the few short moments that I have focused the last two or three months of my life upon. The gallery was filled, but maybe in my quest to keep the secrets of the My-i-electronic stew of the show covered tightly, I forgot to make sure you knew that this was something not to be missed. Even the little bit of repartee with Slug Queen Sadie was priceless and not graceless as I had feared. She's so wildly talented. 
I will try to deliver a pale substitute elixir, but those twenty minutes are here and gone now, as ephemeral as the wobbly items that graced the pedestals. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome something sublime:

iJell-O Script version #165b:

Here we are after 25 years of the Jell-O show, checking in with the Radar Angels as they make their Jell-O Art.         Let us go to their “site” and see what is streaming...

 Picture that iconic album cover, loosely interpreted with a bit more fluff and glitter, including people with Jell-O on their heads, and shiny gold lame. (We missed you, Gil.)

We're Radar Angels one & only Lonely Facebook Band  

Stand back & let the evening jell...Bumpbumpbumpahdumppahdump

 Yes, the whole songs, with a band, maybe not quite the original lyrics, possibly a few more kazoos than the Beatles recorded. You might know how this goes from previous shows. The sight gags here involved oversize thumbs, from texting all our friends, you dig?

 I’m going berserk, ( I ) just can’t communicate this way 

I’m going berserk, texting what it takes just a minute to say

Musical transitions occur between the five songs, leading you gently through our narrative. Comedy skits, written by the participants, attempt to connect you with what is coming next, not that you will feel prepared for these types of surprises. Soon you see three hot *girls* letting you know that

Friday night is Facebook time!

Rumbeando, escalada, try to keep up here as it goes viral. Likety like it!

Oh look, I’m a hottie-oh a lookie oh a lookie at me! Lookie at me!

Then prepare yourself for the ordinary disappointment which suffuses the virtual world. Unfriended by your second cousin in Louisiana. Not invited to the dang event! Sitting in your kitchen on Grinning Singles not finding anyone in your age group who looks the least bit appealing and is also not pretending not to be married. You have been there, and this you know because the entire audience responds with the most empathetic groans and moans to our heroes.

Will you “LIKE” me? (Thumbs up, then down.)

Will you be my “FRIEND”? (Thumbs up, then down)
Would you like to have a loving CHAT” with me? (You guessed it, no way.)
Must have been those velour pants, with the expectant junk (actually we didn’t even consider that sight gag, too obvious, not family friendly. We like a modicum of decorum. We used a tiny violin.) Anyhow, he can’t get a Real Connection.

They tried and they tried. You know this song and dance:

When I’m browsin’ on my phone

You know I’m feeling like I’m so alone

But I keep surfin’ more and more
I’m losin’ my imagination
Need some physical sensation

I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

Well, as you might imagine, we did have a compassionate and nonviolent response for him, poor fellow. Him and the hot girls, who also posted the mostest but still couldn’t get anything real. We responded the best way we could imagine, by feeling. Feeling gooey.

Hello humans,
Where ya goin?
Time to watch your flowers growing.
Time to touch, to dance, to be
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' gooey.

No me mails to read,
No you-tubes to view,
I am the real me and you are the real you
We are sharing our lovely gelatinous goo

We love Jell-O,
All is gooey.

And then, as everyone begins to make Jell-O art in their aprons and wings, and the website for the Jell-O Connection loads, and we forget to use all the many carefully constructed and brilliantly designed props like a spinning hourglass, made by someone who had no clue how many things you can’t do in a 20-minute show, (*taking a curtsey here for the meticulous and clever set design and execution, however misguided and borderline obsessive*), and fog and bubble machines do get turned on, as far as I know, and:

Crickets and frogs begin to fill the swampy site with sounds. A fat frog who looks very little like Kermit steps up to the mic and appears to eat it, surrounded by fairies and elves. He/she warbled and croaked out this little ditty:

Why are there so many questions about art?

What’s on the artists’ minds?

Artists have visions, sometimes delusions

Art leaves you nothing to hide

Here on our website, we’re going to show you  (and here, not to be obtrusive, I must tell you that the fat frog stripped off his/her painfully and (borderline, whatever) cleverly constructed concealment to reveal, yes, you guessed it, The Queen of Jell-O Art herself! In costume! And let me tell you I had about six layers of costumes on...that was interesting.)

The Secrets of all Jell-O goo:

Today you can find it, the Jell-O Connection
The artists, the Angels, and you. (She sang this, on the mic, in front of thousands, or dozens anyway, of our area’s finest art patrons and lovers of all things Jell-O. I know you sent your representatives to see this personal transformation, since after fifty or so years of saying this was something unimaginable, I became one of the *performing* Angels. But I’m interrupting her song)

 We say that every wish can be made in Jell-O
if you have the right recipe 
Here on our website, we have the apps you need, 
and we give our secrets FOR FREE!
It’s so amazing, the joy you’ll be raising, 
See what it has done for me! (Songwriters can get away with a little self-indulgence, if they are still in their first innocent year of queendom, so I put this line in, and took it out, and put it back in, with appropriate gestures. Apparently it worked.)
Today you can find it, the Jell-O Connection,

the Jiggle, the Angels, and You. (Repeat three times and hit those high notes, though not those ones in the soprano range that you wished you could hit like you did in the bathtub. Maybe next time.)

Big finish, as everyone steps in from wherever they were (your narrator had some peripheral vision problems, you might say, as she pretty much saw no one else, in her incredulity that she managed to finish her song with no tears or all those other unrealized fears, mostly by not looking at any of her loving fans in the audience or anyone else in the real world…)

We’re Radar Angels Lonely Facebook Band,

We hope you have enjoyed the show, etc. (Royal wave, the wrist action, etc. Remember to bow to the band, and yes, you do have to leave the beloved stage, new diva.)

Wild applause, a few tears, euphoria, many levels of gratitude all around. Take some pictures, pack up all of that Jell-O and those new artifacts for the Jell-O Art Museum, and go have a cast party. It's over. Sent into the Jellozone, never to be repeated, but legendary, and nowadays probably available online in a few weeks. You get 15 minutes plus, thanks to youTube, which only has 5 billion users or so. But that isn't all that interesting. Go check your Facebook.
We did more singing. We expressed our thanks and looked at our unbelievably cute pictures on a big screen. We went home and tried to sleep, and I can report that I cannot remember the last time I lay in bed, surprised to find a smile still on my face long past midnight. I’m still smiling, though I doubt I will be able to do a single productive thing today (Wait, what? This isn’t productive?)

You just have no idea how may blogs full of insights and powerful, life-changing realizations I could put here if any of us had the attention span necessary. I love being almost 63, and being able to say that I did something I never knew I would love so much as this, and feared so long as this.

Working in a group of highly creative, giving, brilliant individuals making something from thin air, germinating ideas, embellishing, discarding, being diplomatically critical, being dependable or not, committed in varying degrees, terrified, reluctant, exhilarated, satisfied, perfectionistic and realistic, and getting together repeatedly to focus on something so ephemeral, this is an amazing, and probably fairly common occurrence. Stepping out of the safe background into the maelstrom of risk, taking part, participating in something outside your own little world of safety, this is an everyday action.

Board and committee meetings are something like this, minus the singing and dancing maybe. School projects. Opening days of Saturday Markets. Every busker knows what I just learned. Laugh if you will at old people who state the obvious. Every learner is a curious, semi-aware newborn puppy at some point in their process.

Performers do this, playwrights, chefs, teachers, activists, students, parents, Jell-O artists, lots of people do this. I am happy to say that nothing in my life so far felt like a Radar Angels production, so fully engaging all of my talents and gifts and passions, filling my days and thoughts, leaving me so ecstatic. And yet, it is something so very unsubstantial, so unremarkable, so ordinary and insignificant to the larger worlds that go out from me in this kitchen with this old and clunky laptop. I get that. Do not feel guilty for missing my stage debut. Watch the video somday.

I am here to tell you that you already know the secrets of all Jell-O goo. You feel something, a fear perhaps. You are drawn to it, and repelled. You are terrified and intrigued. You are compelled, however long it takes, to move into it, and through it. You saw those Radar Angel-type people in your neighborhood, you wanted to join them, but you were not asked, or coddled, or that properly nurturing person in the interface did not see that you needed nurturing. I’m sorry. Do keep trying.

Fears are there to be conquered, though it matters not a bit to the larger world if you do so, except maybe on the grand scale of collective consciousness it does matter, a lot. Who knows?

Jell-O Art Show is over for this year. Next year is a very long time away, and a 26th anniversary is not too significant. Fifty, now you’re talking, but that would make me 88, and that is a challenge I don’t have much control over. But I urge you to save the date. That one will be huge.

Thank you all, my fellow Angels, the ones who skipped this year as well, because you are still in it. You are here with me, humans, from frog to queen as if it were as easy as stripping off a converted Ducks graduation gown and a decorated baseball hat or two.

You’re all Queens, and Kings, fairies, whatever you want to be, because the secrets of all Jell-O goo are that there are no rules, no winners and losers, no criticism, no rejections, no judgments, no negativity or violence at all. That is the world we are making.

That is the world we are living in. That is the world we have chosen. We are so happy to share it.This world is collaborative. And gentle.

Time to stop trying to rewrite and describe something not describable, and uneditable.  I have to go cry it out now, and then scrape the Jell-O off my kitchen floor. There are a few things to do before next Saturday, my next public appearance. I hope if find it every bit as heart and soul-warming as I expect to. Maybe see you at that one. Love you.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Jell-O Master

I'm famous again! I really like this interview by Sean Cuellar. She went all out to get great shots, and edited it down to something quite coherent!

Too busy to say much more right now...dress rehearsal tonight, and then on with the Show!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Busy Buzzy Slippery Sloppy Jiggle

It's going to happen! The Jell-O Art Show is just around the corner. This Saturday!
The Jell-O Project 2009

 We have two more rehearsals and then the show will go more secrets, lots more laughs, and then it will all be history: my stage debut, hilarious costumes, excellent sets and props. In the space of about 15 minutes my life achievement bar will be raised a little higher.

I keep trying to tell myself that all of it is not a big deal. Hundreds and thousands of people perform every day, with varying degrees of professionalism, and the performances that give the most satisfaction are the ones in which the performer herself is visibly enjoying the process as well as the transmission. I keep reminding myself how much I am enjoying the process.

I like being a little obsessive; it makes my art feel important and compelling. I don't think it matters one bit that my obsession is focused on Jell-O Art. I love going from piece to piece doing the next steps all at the same time...there is always some detail to pin down before cogitating on the next one. Sometimes I have a vague idea to start with and the final product is something completely unimagined until it emerges.

Creativity just builds on itself. I suppose it collapses at some points...I'm pretending that can't happen, and will deal with it on Sunday after the show. I do not have to be creative one whit on the day after the Jell-O Art Show. I do not have to go on the radio or the TV or answer my phone or anything else if I don't want to. 

But from now until Saturday at 8:00 pm I am ON! Working steadily and relentlessly to perfect what I have finished and finish what I have nearly perfected, I am starting to have a little trouble sleeping.

That's not a bad thing. On Thursday I have to get up really early and create the Jell-O Art Museum on my front porch for KEZI-TV. It will be a bit of a practice run, a bit of a workshop on making Jell-O Art, a bit of historical celebration of my outre ouvre, a bit of acting, some major silliness, and it could go viral if it is delightful enough. 

I've pretty much dropped off the internet radar since my big push to be a famous Jell-O Artist a few years ago. You have to maintain your fame in the intertubes. I've never done a TV interview before. I hadn't ever done a radio interview before either, but Michael Canning at KLCC made it easy (no small thanks to Radar Active, a seasoned promoter of all things Jell-O). It was all over in about five minutes and lots of smiles were exchanged.

And so it will be with the TV, and then with the show. I realized that some of the set pieces I have been slaving over for weeks will be displayed for maybe 60 seconds, or maybe even the 15 or 20 minutes of the performance, and then will be artifacts of little usefulness. (Which I will save for the Museum of Jell-O Art, of course.) So the point is easily seen to not be the final product, or a product at all.

This is something truly ephemeral, something meant to last for only a few hours at most. Anything I try to do to extend its life or magnify its importance will all be lost in a few hours, except in legend.

One of the best things of the last few days was reconnecting many former Jell-O Artists with their Jell-O histories. They haven't forgotten them, but I have only vague memories of most. It is so fun to meet up with someone and have them describe to me, in detail, the classic or failed or ridiculous Jell-O pieces they have made. People remember their fun!

I've started trying to make a list of each year, the theme, and my piece, which may not be as hard as you think, because I have a lot of those old-fashioned photos, the ones on paper. And I have t-shirts, a t-shirt for every year except the first few. Mine started in 1994. I know Mike Martin made one earlier than that, but I don't have it handy. It was just a big Jell-O box with the lettering in red on a white shirt, I think. I used the art again in my first one, 1994, when I made it into Jell-O-Rama. I have faithfully created one each year.

I love these particular shirts, the Jell-O Collection. I get to be completely self-indulgent with the design, and don't care whether they sell or not...if they don't, I give them away to the artists and performers. I sometimes refer to the theme, sometimes quite loosely. I always do them at the last minute, though this year I did it last week, and finished them just in time to get one on TV via MKAC. 

Yes, the Jell-O Art Show costs me three months of productive work time, several dollars in bulk gelatin, blank shirts and piles of art materials, but the payoff is huge for me. Fun like I rarely seem to have it, fun that engages every part of me. Each year I stretch, whether it be in gelatin technique or concept, or in putting on a show as I am doing with the group this year. Fun that builds on itself, does not consume energy without a giant net increase, art that has legs.

This stuff is seductive, brilliant, and delightful, and I know I am not the only one who feels this. Countless onlookers have been engaged and brought into our Jell-O Art world, despite the fact that there are even a few people on my *friends list* who have never seen it, and don't get it. 

Once you are in, you can see where it goes, even if you don't want to go there too. That's okay, just wait. Someday you will see something like gelatin bubbles on a cake, or Bacon Jell-O, and you will be drawn inexorably in. Inextricably. Your doubts and fears will fade as you play. You will find yourself grinning when your piece wobbles off its plate and you have to start over.

This stuff is magic. You have to step over the threshold though. We make it as easy as we can: just come to Maude Kerns on Saturday night at 5:00. Prepare to form some new synapses. 

And a disclaimer: You could be disappointed. Maybe this year there will be no interesting Jell-O sculptures, no new recipes on the Tacky Food Buffet, and all the singers (especially me) will be off-key, fumbly and annoying. The jokes won't be funny. It will be so crowded and you will be in the back and miss everything. We'll have a snowstorm and all the refrigerators will go on the fritz, and all the Jell-O will slide onto the floor, and my costume will rip and I'll fall off the stage and break my other foot.

You see how it can get. Please help. Think lovely thoughts, dream about the brilliant transparency of life and art, and LYFAO.

Repeatedly. See you at the Show!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You've Never Made Jell-O Art?

Classic piece from 2009
What? We've been going for 25 years and you haven't made any Jell-O yet? Perhaps you don't realize how easy it is.

Relax, you still have two weeks (minus one day) until March 30 when you will be bringing your piece to Maude Kerns Art Center and declaring yourself to be a Jell-O Artist.

Easter is usually a good back-up theme
Go get that box from the cupboard, because I'm guessing you at least have a box of Lime for that family reunion. See how complicated they make it? It is actually basic: gelatin plus water, and the more gelatin, the firmer it gets.
Book made of dried gelatin sheets

Try getting a box of clear Knox brand, which contains 32 envelopes, each containing about 1/4 ounce of gelatin. Then add some extra to the Jell-O brand, to make the traditional Jigglers-type edible stuff, a little firmer than usual, still retaining a bit of jiggle, but more stable at room temperature.

Try a few things, like pouring it into non-traditional molds, anything that will hold liquid and allow you to pry the firm gelatin out. The firmer stuff is easy to get out of molds, holds its shape, and will allow some shaping techniques, like carving.

Some advanced technique and great use of props
Then try a few more things. Make it really, really thick, and as soon as you are comfortable, abandon the Jell-O brand with all of its sugar and chemicals, and use just the pure gelatin. Color it with whatever you have I use dyes, because I have a lot of them around. I also buy gelatin in 25 pound lots on the internet, but you can stick with the Knox until you get a lot more ambitious.

Closeup of a dried piece almost ten years old

One thing that differs with the clear gelatin is that you want to dissolve it by stirring it into cold water, not hot. Let it bloom in the water for about ten minutes, and then melt the stuff in the microwave or on the stovetop. Skim off any foam and throw it away (or use it to decorate your sculpture.) You can remelt the gelatin numerous times until it gets moldy or too stiff.

Wet gelatin will last a few days, so you will want to wait until the week of the show to make your final project, but that still gives you a week to experiment. 

Looked like a good plan...

I work in mostly dried gelatin at this point, because I like the illusion of control and the permanence of the results. Once dried it resembles plastic and lasts for decades. I fill a quart canning jar half full of water and add 6 ounces of gelatin. That makes a very stiff formula that I pour in thin layers in pie plates and cake pans for a glossy surface. Then as it dries I peel it out, tear and cut it into shapes, and turn and tend it for a day or two until it gets dry. There are various stages of flexibility in the process, and again, you can wet it and remelt it and start over.

You can't predict the results!

I glue my dry pieces together with molten gelatin. It's very strong and I have found a million ways to use it as an art material.

But I advise starting with the jiggly kind. It's fun, it's easy, it will clean up off your floor and counters eventually, and let me testify that playing with art, particularly something as beautiful and delightful as Jell-O Art, is highly liberating.

Let your Jell-O Artist out!