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Island of Misfit Toys

12/12/2011

This weekend, JC and I attended the Root Division benefit Misfit Toy Factory, in which John participated by making a few awesome, irreverent, and playful sculptures.

Artists participated in one-hour shifts, creating wild, weird, and wacky critters to fit the night’s theme. A selection of photos is offered below.

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Yes, that is a golden poo.

I have to admit that I’m always disturbed by the ripping apart of toys. I can understand making a teddy-bear-skin coat, because, after all, we do that with real animals. In that sense, it’s a bit of an homage—and also somewhat functional. And I loved Patrick D. Wilson’s idea of gilding simple plastic animals and figures to create a golden nativity scene because it elevated these poor, cast-off critters to a higher, even spiritual realm—as well as being a funny seasonal piece.

But there’s something unseemly about tearing parts and limbs off of different toys to build a Frankenstein creature that merely serves the art world. I think each toy has its own inherent value, and ripping a leg or a head off of one to make something else is wasteful of both the toy’s parts and its spirit, as well as an act of super ego.

That said, I don’t have any problem with using cast-off, damaged pieces. But I felt a pang of discomfort whenever I saw someone take a toy from the central display and then dismantle it to complete their project.

Back when I sewed “animals” as sculpture, I made my own patterns and sculpted my own faces. People would always ask me if I’d use old toys to make a piece, and I always said no. That concept just seemed wrong to me. Then again, this comes from a person who sees a $1 flea-market animal and, if it has too pathetic and desperate and expression, will buy it just to keep it from meeting the dump.

I suppose I anthropomorphize too much. Maybe it’s a double-G empathy gene. Perhaps I’m just touched in the head.

When I was a kid, I collected stuffed animals. I bought hundreds with every penny of my allowance, all with names and an elaborate social structure among them. My very first animal was a Velveteen-style rabbit (cleverly named “Rabbit”), which I still have. When I moved away from home in college, I felt guilty about leaving the troupe. Many years later, after adopting the ones I felt I could manage in my adulthood, I could barely look the rest in the eye when I packed them into the Goodwill bag. No wonder I can’t stand the idea of ripping one apart.

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