This workshop was developed organically from experiences with the city, Saint Petersburg, Russa as well as creative input from the participants from Pro-Arte Foundation. The performances in public spaces were given on September 20, 21, & 22 in courtyards and a storefront window on Liteiny Prospect for the inaugural public arts festival, Arts Prospect. (co-curated by Ed Woodham and based on the model, Art in Odd Places)
“Shortly before traveling to Saint Petersburg, Pussy Riot had just been imprisoned and the governor of the city declared being gay to be illegal. As a response, preceding the workshop, I took on the role of Fancy “a flaneur of sorts who was ’out’ on the town,” donning an outrageous costume, a wig, flamboyant jewelry and, with the help of Terry Hardy, crafted a photomontage of his character walking the streets and posing throughout the city.”
On the excursion, Fancy came across a plaza where artists were selling kitsch paintings and sketching tourists, so he bargained with one of the artists, the only one who spoke English, to sketch him. The artist agreed, asking, “are you a rockstar?” and “what’s going on?” and as he was explaining he suddenly found himself swarmed by the other artists, who began to sketch him as well. Fancy became the epicenter of activity, as he was surrounded by all these artists who were sketching him, who were then followed by Terry photographing the scene and tons of Russian tourists gathering to see what was going on, creating “these concentric circles of modeling and observation.”
This experience with the sketchers was the impetus behind “Strange Makings” Saint Petersburg workshop, which was presented to students from the Pro-Arte foundation, one of the few contemporary art foundations in St. Petersburg. Pro-Arte provided about ten students from the area for the program, all in their late-twenties to mid-thirties and working as established artists and teachers.
“When I first met these students, I wore a black and white stripped costume that was created for me by Gretchen Vitamvas for this particular occasion, which turned out to be the best choice of garment for our meeting as “serendipitously, [at] the location of Pro-Arte, which is the Peter and Paul Fortress, the guard stations were also this black and white diagonal pattern.” During that meeting, the idea of the concentric circles of modeling was presented, myself as the model surrounded by people who would be sketching and photographing me, and then there would be another circle of people sketching the sketchers sketching me, and so on. I translated what was learned from this excursion through the city into the workshop/performance for the festival, Arts Prosepct which touched on ideas of modeling and observation in a courtyard and a storefront window on Liteiny Prospect and involved the participation of students from the Pro-Arte Foundation in St. Petersburg.”
At this event everyone had a different way of working, drawing the attention of bystanders, photographers, and reporters from the national news, each of them taking pictures and video recording the actions. In turn, these individuals were also being sketched and photographed us, “turning the play of who is looking at whom.” People were looking; from busses, on the street, [even] to people in cars honking, [they were] gawking at the spectacle in the window.”