Category Archives: Q&A

regrets, pity parties, and moving on.

instead of writing a waterfire recap, i’m writing about the thing i was so determined to not be doing this season.┬áthe forecast looked so grim for saturday evening. warnings of thunderstorms with heavy rain, high winds, and hail. i agonized about it all day, and in the end i decided to stay home. so, of course, the weather was apparently fine in providence aside from a few scattered showers early on. i spent the entire weekend beating myself up about it. someday i’ll learn the lesson of “it’s better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t.” running for shelter in a storm is always better than not trying at all.

in an effort to not get stuck in a pity party, i did a little Q&A on facebook and instagram. since i don’t have a recap to write, here are some of those questions instead.

How did you get started?

my first two performances were at dresden dolls concerts in october 2004. i had seen living statues a few times, and those concerts were the perfect place to try it out myself. i immediately fell in love and started busking in my hometown. the following summer was my first season at waterfire.

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my first performance. photo by sheri hausey

How long does it take you to get into costume?

now that i’m not wrestling with my hair to get it under a wig, it takes about twenty minutes to get into costume for lily. fifteen of those minutes are spent on makeup. i could probably do it in half the time, but i can be a little obsessive about my makeup, so i

of course, there’s also prep work that happens before it’s time to get into costume. all the clothing components need to be washed, then my top and two skirts get de-wrinkled [i prefer steamers over irons]. if my shoes are a mess [like having gum stuck to the sole] i’ll clean them up. i check the batteries for the tip jar lights and change them if i don’t think they’ll last at least another six hours. i make sure my supply box has enough white tape to mark my space on the garden ledge for waterfire nights, extra batteries for the lights, extra business cards, a bottle of water, and my makeup. then i need to get justin set up to take photos and videos. i gather up helpful things like an external battery and a monopod for my phone, clear out storage space on my phone, and check with him to make sure his camera battery is charged. if i’m dumb and leave most of this work for the day of busking, it can take me a couple hours to get my shit together.

Have you ever used any other props…. or just your parasol?

many, many years ago, i handed out flowers. by default, the flowers and the vase used to contain them became props. the same goes for the few attempts i made at handing out candy, or little trinkets like marbles and seashells. if something is in my hands, i have to incorporate it into my poses and movements somehow.

then i decided i couldn’t deal with the greediness of people when i handed out tangible objects. so ditched the vases and baskets, and picked up a parasol instead. i stuck with that for a few years.

then i decided i preferred the physical freedom of not using props. the range of poses and movements i can do when my hands are empty is so much more enjoyable than trying to incorporate props into everything i do. now i only have a little white umbrella as an “in case of sudden showers” back up plan. i perform with props at work with ten31 productions sometimes, but i generally don’t enjoy it.

have you ever performed as other characters? if not, would you like to try?

i’ve had a few other living statue and living doll type characters, though lily has dominated my busking career for quite a few years now. before lily there was jasmine, and cloud [my silver statue], and victoria, and the lonely bride, and masquerade, and a few others who were more for concerts than regular busking. i’ve done a few non-statue characters, such as a raven at some edgar alan poe events, a ghost at some slater mill ghost tours, fairies at some concerts [many, many years ago]… currently, i have twin characters that i will probably debut via photoshoots before using them for performances, and i have a crazy project of putting together a quad stilt animal costume for something completely different. in the longer term, i’m also planning on adding more variety to my living statue arsenal by getting back into metallics as well as more complex finishes.

 

When will we be seeing you in the Plymouth area again?

i’ve actually been thinking about busking in plymouth again. i stopped a few years ago because it reached a point of no longer feeling worthwhile financially, and i didn’t have as much time for it. but my life is taking some turns, and i may need that kind of supplement for my income again. i might test the foot traffic in my old main street spot next time i have a free sunday afternoon.

…and this is the perfect segue into announcing my plan to busk this sunday in downtown plymouth. i will probably aim for mid-day at the corner of main street and north street. the pity party is over, it’s time to get back out there.

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talking to a statue.

Anyone ever drop their phone number in your tip jar?

i’ve pulled hundreds of phone numbers out of my tip jar. i’m baffled by it every time. exactly what do you want me to do with that? call you up and say “hi, i have no idea who you are, but i perform as a living statue and this number was left in my tip jar”? will i be what you imagined a living statue performer to be? would you even recognize me out of costume? probably not. if you really want to talk to me, wait a while…

I’ve never seen a living statue “set up” or stop their performance. Do you try to be sneaky about it or have I just not witnessed it yet?

i’m not sneaky about it at all. all one has to do to see me set up or break down is be there at the right time. i also do not make any effort to stay in character when i am not actually performing. if you see me setting up or getting down, that’s a good time to chat with me if you so desire.

Do people ever just sit near and spend a while chatting to you, knowing that you’ll be a good listener because you can’t move or reply?

occasionally, yes, i get people who just want to talk at the statue, like i’m the new postsecret. as long as the person maintains an appropriate distance while talking to me and doesn’t do anything to interfere with my performance, i’m perfectly happy to listen.


the redditor – diy online magazine

http://theredditorissues.blogspot.com/2011/10/issue-4-october-2011-halloween-special.html

my IAmA was featured in this month’s issue of the redditor. they used a photo i’m not in love with, and they kind of broke up the very thoughtful set of questions from my last blog post. but overall, i’m pleased.


the social life of a statue.

What do your friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/parents feel about this? Does it have an impact on your social life? Additionally, what type of social life did you have before/after getting in to this? Are you otherwise outgoing, or normally a shy person?

my boyfriend and friends have always been extremely interested in and supportive of my art. it works out really well for me, it means i almost always have volunteer bodyguards to hang out in the crowd and step in to deal with douchebags if i need them to. my parents, well, they would have preferred a college degree and a “real job”, but that’s just not who i am, and they’ve accepted that. their attitudes definitely changed for the better after they finally came to see me perform at waterfire. they saw that i have a talent for it, i can make money doing it, and it makes a lot of people happy. before that, they pretty much just saw me as a glorified beggar.

it does impact my social life on occasion. my best busking opportunities are on weekends, and my ten31 schedule is all over the place. it helps to have friends who have similarly weird schedules.

when i started performing at nineteen years old, i had a very small group of friends and was a bundle of social anxiety in groups of strangers. living statuary was unexpectedly helpful in easing my anxieties. my group of friends is still small and cozy, but i’m a thousand times more comfortable chatting with total strangers now than i was seven years ago. it’s hard to be shy when i have dozens of people approaching me, wanting to compliment/ask about what i’m doing. my art is a wonderful icebreaker.


time, heat, and breath.

How long are the intervals in which you perform? How long of a break do you take in between?

when busking, i perform for one to two hours at a time, for a total of three to six hours. breaks might be just long enough to get a drink, empty out the tip jar, and fix any makeup issues i’ve got goin’ on [<5 minutes], or longer if i end up chatting with admirers of my art [~15 minutes].

How often do you get to do it?

i try to busk once a week, starting in mid may and continuing through late september. the likelihood of actually busking that often mostly depends on three factors: my horsey work schedule, my ten31 schedule, and the weather. i rarely miss a waterfire, though.

How do you deal with the sweat and stuff in hot weather (NOT scratching and moving/messing up your makeup, etc)?

i try not to busk in 90+ weather, and i generally don’t start until 5:00 or later in the middle of summer. but, still, sometimes the best busking opportunities occur when it’s motherfucking hot outside. all i can do is try to stay in the shade, conserve energy with easy-to-hold poses, and accept the fact that sweating more under a costume that covers everything but my face is better than sweating less with large areas of skin exposed and covered in makeup. the latter results in lots of melting and rubbing makeup off with every movement.

the feeling of sweat rolling down my back is not exactly pleasant, but it’s certainly the least distracting of any discomforts i might experience.

Do you breathe normally when you perform or do you utilize a different pattern/technique?

i’m sure if i were into yoga or meditation, i’d have a super special breathing technique. but i’m not, so i don’t. once i settle into “the statue zone”, my mind and body relax, my heart rate slows, and my breathing becomes slow, shallow, and imperceptible to all but the most stubbornly critical of observers. no special tricks. just natural relaxation.


hey, i’m on television!

in may, i was filmed for a canton community tv show. i talk about my experience as a street performer while applying makeup, then i head out to downtown plymouth to busk for the first time since october.

my statue muscles were out of shape after a long winter, i didn’t apply my makeup as well as i normally do, and i’m always a nervous wreck speaking in front of a camera. but overall, i’m very happy with the way this whole thing turned out.


modelling versus statuing.

Have you ever thought about posing for a figure drawing class?

the only time i think about that is when people ask me if i’ve ever thought about it. and it’s one of those questions i hear just about every time i go out busking, or tell someone i perform as a living statue. sure, i’d be good at it, i can sit still for long periods of time. but sitting still while a bunch of people stare at me in silence… i can’t think of many things that would be more boring. i like living statuary because being still, combined with costuming and makeup, creates an illusion. i like being something unexpected, strange, beautiful, memorable. i like hearing people talk about me, argue about me, blurt things out in a moment of uncensored expression. i like being able to interact with people, to blow them kisses, to shake their hands, to give them hugs, to playfully lean on them like they’re a piece of furniture when they come up to get their picture taken with me. i like being the art. pose for a class? that sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry.

How do you feel about photographers?

i love love love photographers. especially the ones who actually send me the photos they take, or posts them in an easy-to-find place on the internet. i do ego searches on flickr often, deviantart and photobucket maybe once or twice a year, occasionally a general google search, etc. where else do y’all upload your photos?

sometimes i don’t like photographers, amateur or otherwise, at waterfire after sunset when everybody’s using a flash. that kind of sucks. i understand everybody wants to take pictures, but seriously, it’s ridiculous when there’s a flash going off literally every few seconds. you’re blinding me. i’m seeing spots for ten minutes after everybody’s done taking photos. please try to be considerate with your camera flash usage, folks.

i generally will not hesitate to pose for a quick photo while i’m on a break. but if you don’t ask, you’re an asshole. i get so many people who just start taking pictures while i’m trying to drink or eat or talk to my assistant/companion or whatever. clearly some of you don’t know this, so i’m gonna go ahead and tell you. i want you to remember this, it’s very important information. ready? i can see you! when i get down for a break, i want to just be a person and relax for ten minutes. by taking snapshots of me at this time without saying anything or asking if i would mind, you are now treating me like a monkey in a zoo. this kind of behaviour is in the same category as people who talk about me when they’re all of two feet away from me. i’m gonna tell you another secret. it’s just as important as the other one, but apparently even fewer people know this. i can hear you! imagine that. the living statue can see and hear. amazing, isn’t it?

we’ll save discussion regarding the even lesser known fact that i can feel you poking and grabbing me for another day.


what’s in a name?

do you consider yourself a performer or a performing artist? why?

that’s a really interesting distinction to make. i’ve never thought about it that way. is there really a difference? i’m a performer. i’m an artist. i’m a performance artist. i suppose it all depends on how you break down these terms.

a performer. i perform for audiences. i have a costume. i have a character. i utilize the small amount of acting skills that i have to play this role. i do rehearsed improv.

an artist. i perform to express myself, to be simultaneously vulnerable and strong, to have fun, to create beauty. my highschool art teacher would always say “take something, do something to it, then do something else to it. that’s art.” i’ve taken my body, i’ve covered it in white clothing and makeup, and i’ve made it remain motionless in a pretty pose to create the illusion of being a statue. i’ve created art.

a performance artist. my art has the four basic elements of performance art, according to wikipedia. time, space, the performer’s body, and a relationship between performer and audience. i perform for an hour, or two, or three, or four. i hold a pose for a length of time that is determined by the frequency with which i receive donations from kind strangers. i perform in a public space, on a sidewalk, in a park, in a cafe. my body, as mentioned earlier, becomes the my canvas. and while i could pretend to be a statue with absolutely no one to witness it, i’m not that crazy. i require an audience, to watch me, to talk about me, to interact with me.

so, with all that in mind, the answer is: yes.


busking for love letters.

Before you begin or when you finish your performance, do people approach to talk to you, and do you keep in a certain character while you do this? How do you interact with people while youre in costume?

lots of people come up to talk to me when i’m getting to/from my pitch, or down for a break. sometimes they just want to know why i’m in costume, sometimes they saw me performing and want to ask questions or compliment my act. i’ve never talked to people “in character”, i’m as friendly or snarky with these strangers as i would be under less unusual circumstances. i thank those who express admiration for what i do, i answer every question that is asked, i pose for photos and accept tips, i say “wtf?” to people who are douchenozzles. it’s more amusing being approached by someone who has no idea what the costume/makeup is for, and i have to explain that i perform as a living statue. the reactions are mixed, they have a lot more questions, and more often than not they’re confused by it all [i guess it’s really one of those things you have to see to understand]. what’s really fun is going into stores or restaurants before/after a busking session. that’s where people are more likely to stare than to approach me, and i’ll catch groups talking about me, asking eachother “did you see that girl?!” it always makes me laugh, in a “i’ve lost faith in the intelligence of humans” sort of way.

Do people often give you things other than money? (Notes, candy, their numbers, for example)

i’ve had all sorts of things dropped into my tip jar. love notes, poems, and phone numbers. business cards, usually from photographers. flowers, candy, plastic jewelery, toys. cigarettes and lighters. images printed from the internet, like comic strips. tokens for amusement parks and arcades. allen keys, lug nuts, screws. lots and lots of religious propoganda. notes with complaints about my act. trash, chewed gum, rocks, sticks. not everything i get is pleasant.


“you do -what- for a living?”

How do people react when you first tell them of your profession?

i get a similarly wide variety of reactions when i tell people what i do as i would if they had actually seen me performing. most people are curious and want to know more details. some are downright fascinated by it. i get a lot of “oh! like that statue person i saw at [insert location]!” type comments. and some people just don’t get it. but that’s okay. i live to baffle people.

What’s the best moment you’ve had while statuing?

i have hundreds of best moments. any time a child is mesmerized by me, or absolutely terrified of me [i can’t help it, it’s funny every time]. i’ve been asked to hold a baby for a photo a couple of times and i just about died from the cute. i’ve been given gifts that couldn’t exactly fit in my tip jar, like large bouquets of flowers and paintings. i was once given a love note by boba fett on the bridgewater state college campus. an old waterfire acquaintence of mine, corvus, used to randomly perform with me, and i loved the spontaneous and improvised nature of those interactions. staring contests are always especially amusing.

every performance includes some sort of “best moment”. that’s why i love what i do.

What kind of thoughts pass through your mind while statuing for a long quiet time? Is it akin to meditation?

hardcore lulls during a performance are about as comparable to meditation as quiet time during one’s day to day life. waiting in line at a store, going for a walk, driving without a passenger or radio, doing household chores… the mind wanders in all sorts of directions while still paying attention [hopefully] to what’s going on around you. that’s the best way i can describe it. as long as there are people in the viscinity, i’m hyperaware of what’s going on, because i don’t want to miss a possible opportunity to interact with someone. but if it’s dead quiet and i’m at a gig, i kind of go into autopilot mode- still performing, but minimally, and paying less attention to my surroundings and more attention to my own thoughts.