Saturday night I faced my irrational fear of puppets in order to be a part of one of the greatest art parties thus far in 2015. A gathering of the best artist and gallery owners in the post-contemporary low brow art movement (aka Littletopia at the LA Art Show), coordinated by Greg Escalante, we gathered at Bob Baker Marionette Theater. My invite came from Thinkspace Gallery of course, and at first I turned down the invite because I had another party to go to that night. Using my other RSVP as a nice way to get out of seeing marionettes. It’s not that I think marionettes are lame or not a good form of entertainment, I actually get physically uncomfortable in the presence of animated dolls. Andrew from Thinkspace told me I’d really be missing out and to attend my other party late, and being one that actively avoids FOMO – I made myself go. Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater is on the outskirts of Downtown LA and a stone’s throw away from Echo Park. It had a string of Christmas lights and a garland tree set up out front, still strong in the holiday spirit. Walking in, the ‘party room’ was already packed with gallery owners from Roq La Rue, Red Truck Gallery, Gauntlet, Spoke Art, and Copro. There was a lot of familiar faces, and those I didn’t know. A few of the artists I recognized included; Natalia Fabia, Lola, Adam Wallacavage, Travis Louis, Brian Viveros, and Casey Weldon. There was a handful of other artist there to, who if they wore a sticker of their work instead of a ‘hello my name is…’ I’d know them too. Oh yeah Chet Zar was there as well, and everyone was merrily enjoying Two Boots pizza. I might just sound like a total name dropper right now, and that’s ok cause it’s exactly what I’m doing. Saving the best for last, the most honored guest, in a burgundy velvet suit – Mark Ryden was in attendance. The show that was put on was Bob Baker’s Nutcracker. It started with rainbow marionettes, who’s eyes blinked and when they started dancing in a circle I was thoroughly creeped out. I sat safely in the second row, with people protecting me from puppet interaction. The marionettes played with the audience, and Clara the puppet even jumped on Mark Ryden. A queen of candies and cake happily sat upon the lap of Casey Wheldon. They weren’t all nightmare inducing, sparkly sugar plum fairies and pretty flowers who danced the waltz provided a break from my constant humming anxiety. It was a fantastic night to be a part of, and the old 1950’s record with the voices, narration, and music of the show provided another level of delight. When the ‘Tea’ portion of the Nutcracker came on, and the oriental puppets with their incredibly non-pc costumes danced the floor, complete with “ching chong” dialogue; its offensiveness and nostalgia for another time added to the shows unique flavor.
I never thought I’d say I was happy to have gone to a marionette show, but I’m absolutely thrilled to have seen this performance. I have this philosophy that if you’re not uncomfortable you aren’t growing. Facing fears, and pushing your boundaries are not easy. Sure it might just be an irrational fear of dolls and puppets. But I was about to let my fear keep me from experiencing a night surrounded by such creative and artistic talent. I would have really let myself down. I’m just thankful to Andrew for not letting me say no, it’s another reminder to keep saying yes to life!