trick or treat

if is a word
that seems to gravitate to me

a word
I qualify my meanings with

as if
as if

nothing is allowed to be
permanent or definite

who is the them that is
me?  define me

I think perhaps
I will choose to be someone else
I must accommodate myself,
defer to my mask

while the other me
struggles to understand what
we both have
in common

am I who they think I am?

or am I a secret
that will never be

These drawings of ventriloquist dummies in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky were inspired by a book of photos of the dummies taken by Matthew Rolston. The Kick-About prompt of a circus immediately brought them to mind.

Haunting and aware, I had always wanted to try to capture some of the sentience of the photos in a drawing. And so I did, randomly opening the book to 4 different faces. 

One of the essays in the book says they are meant “to suggest life”—but any supposedly “inanimate” object so entwined with a human life is alive.  Any child can tell you that.  They may have been separated from their humans, but these faces remember them.

You can read more about the Vent Haven Museum here, and read more about Rolston’s book here.

38 thoughts on “trick or treat

  1. Ouch. This is so good it nearly hurts. (no worries if that don’t seem to be making sense) Think I like your paintings over the actual wooden faces. Softer? I’m not sure. But faces AND narrative, powerful, like the sun is bright. Already thinking of your post like good soup, something that calls for a spoon to best enjoy. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks David. I guess I don’t post my drawings that much, but it doesn’t seem that different to me. Although these faces are really special I think, and maybe that’s what comes through. I have a long fascination with masks, but these seem much more lifelike than most.


  2. p.s. I just went and looked at the book link. Those things are damned creepy. They give off the same vibe as clowns do. You’ve softened them with your art, and I believe you did it intentionally. You made them possible to be regarded without revulsion or fear.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I feel that way about clowns too. Ventriloquism is creepy in and of itself.

      There’s something about the strangeness of masklike images that I’ve always found fascinating.though. Perhaps I’m always looking for the life hidden inside.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I like the idea of a mask being a portal that both the wearer and the viewer may escape into. OK now you have me intrigued. Will you say more about “invisible” masks?


    1. Thanks Aletha. I do feel for them–I don’t see how there could not have been an exchange of energy between them and their humans. And now they are mute and severed from that relationship. All those things we consider to be lacking life are made of the same elements we contain. Their molecules are moving too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kerfe, I agree with Lisa, you have softened the faces so as to make them more palatable. They are grotesque, but I like how you want to find the life in them. Some of these were carved (long ago). I wonder if the artist was trying to do that as well??

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love those last questions. And your drawings! Believe it or not one of my Christmas presents that I wanted and loved most when I was a kid (can’t remember what age) was a Charlie McCarthy dummy. My dad had a phobia of dolls so I can’t believe he went for it. But I was an only child so, who knows, maybe they thought I was pining for a surrogate brother. In hindsight I think he was more my male alter ego, but we had fun together until I gave him up like all of my toys. I’d completely forgotten about Charlie, so thanks for calling it back to mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sun. I think we all had some kind of alter ego in that way, whether doll, stuffed animal, or imaginary friend (my older brother had one of those). Lots of people find dolls creepy but I think there is humanity in every one.

      Liked by 1 person

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