Grin Reaper:
Alter for a Terminally Ill Clown
fabric and found items on panel
36" x 24"
Returning to imagery from Haitian religious drapeaux, this piece was inspired by a
close friend with whom I shared a number of wonderful years when we performed
together as clowns.  Neither of us dons the motley any longer.  And in fact my seriously
ill buddy has been fighting for his life (somehow cheating death repeatedly) for over 15
years.  During a recent visit, he asked me to take away some of his clown wardrobe
and "create something with them".

Moved as always by roadside shrines that often poke through the protective coating of
daily routine when they suddenly appear with no warning or explanation (and often just
as suddenly disappear with no trace), I focused on creating an alter of sorts where
offerings and good thoughts might be left in spiritual support.  This shrine's familiar
figure is certainly viewed in normal times as the very antithesis of a clown.  But for the
particular jester this piece is dedicated to, there has been no such thing as normal for
a very long time.  Appropriating the reaper through a fool's sensibilities appeals to me
as an act of defiance.

Using strips of fabric from costumes, I rendered the image through a latch hook
process.  As with shrines where personal notes and items are often left, this alter is
affixed with clown boutonnieres and buttons, costume trim, a sponge nose, and burst
balloons.  Attached with strings are notes and sketches recalling shared memories,
names of favorite clown buddies, successful performances together, unsuccessful
performances together (now funny as seen through the patina of time passed), favorite
gags, memorable walk-around props, memories of hard work and laughs under the
big top, and reflections on the pains of life outside the big top (doomed to imperfection
by reality).
All images © Ron Orpitelli 2007