You expect to see reindeer at a holiday parade. But an artisan herd?
Spectators at Saturday's annual North Fork Children's Christmas Parade and Party will be greeted with quite a sight: 17 area artists transformed into a herd of strange and majestic deer celebrating the holiday.
Each artist will be hiding under a cape — artistically decorated, of course — and thrusting a deer head with antlers high into the air as horns blare and bells ring.
The artists hope the effect will be something between jaunty holiday cheer and the mystery of a masquerade, in which anonymity and artistic impulse swirl into a celebratory high.
We caught up via email with North Fork resident Marij Bouwmans, recently featured in exhibitions at Fig Tree Gallery and Corridor 2122, to talk about her concept for this intriguing-sounding experiment in performance art.
Question: How many artists will be joining you?
Answer: The Artisan Herd of North Fork consists of seven bucks, eight does, one fawn and one "horn man."
Ever done it before?
This is the 16th annual Christmas parade put on by the North Fork Boosters, a nonprofit service organization, with donations from the community.
(The event is held annually for the children of the community of North Fork. Santa will be at the North Fork Town Hall following the parade to meet the children.)
I have been a spectator for seven of these 16 years. This year, I rounded up my artist friends and invited them to join me in this year's parade.
Terrance Reimer, a photographer living in North Fork, brought his relentless enthusiasm to my plan and then the rest of the group followed easily.
The participants could purchase a wooden deer head with a set of manzanita branches as antlers for $10 from local artist Charlie Overstreet and would be completely free to maximize their deer image dress in the most outrageous or elegant ways they would want to come up with.
Deer have deep mythological meaning, besides being the contemporary sled pullers for Santa. Their role of sled pullers may be a variation of a much older myth, namely, pulling the Winter Solstice around.
This pagan meaning adds a nice layer to deer imagery since the majority of artists felt limited by the modern symbology of the reindeer with a red nose.
You're an artist and psychologist. What are your thoughts on masquerades? Do you have personal experience?
I come from a Catholic background and right before Lent we would have four days of Carnival. And that meant in my Dutch town that there would be a parade, and people would dress up in character. This custom continued till far into adulthood.
My interest in analytic psychology later in life transformed the meaning of these carnival events for me. It made the connection between the masquerades and pagan rituals.
And that a mask also helps in acting deeper layers of oneself in a safe way. Much like what happens in dreams, where we seem to be able to get involved in all kinds of situations with all kind of people, often times showing elements of oneself that we may or not may want to know about.
But you won't get too heavy about the subtext, right?
Yeah. We like to keep it light since it is a children's parade. We will be handing out candy. We count on a lot fun hiding under a deer costume.
North Fork annual Children's Christmas Parade and Party, 2 p.m. Saturday, downtown North Fork. (559) 676-7766. Free.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.