For six years, Tampa artist Theresa Crout has created her creepy-cute VooDoods inspired by various themes, and asked her followers out in social-media land to give them names. We asked her via email about her ritual on the eve of an Ybor City party celebrating this latest brood of ‘Doods.
Where did the original idea for VooDoods come from?
I’ve always been fascinated with voodoo dolls. There is an interesting dichotomy in soft creatures being used to inflict pain on the living. The VooDood series itself started as paintings. I did a quick painting of a voodoo doll for a group art show, and people really related to it, so I expanded the concept to a series. Keeping with the idea of giving each voodoo doll a life of its own, I decided to make the VooDood character three-dimensional. As sculptures, the pieces really do exist as little beings. Each has a unique personality to take out into the world. For the past six years I’ve embarked on an challenge to create a new collection of pieces each year, and to date have made more than 350 one-of-a-kind VooDoods.
What’s the medium?
VooDoods are made with polymer clay and enhanced with sewing pins, buttons, beads and other found objects. I then bake them in a toaster oven (yes really!) and paint them with acrylic paint and glaze.
How did you come up with this year’s theme? What are some past themes?
Of all of the themes, this year’s theme is the most personal. Music is a huge part of my life, and I have wanted to do a music-themed collection for years. Until this year I could not quite figure out how to make it work, but my better half, Tim Allison, came up with the idea of using lyrics as inspiration for each piece. Each VooDood not only has its own personality, but it is an interpretation of a song. There is a wide variety represented, ranging from “The Show Must Go On” by Queen to “Justified” from the soon-to-be-released Have Gun, Will Travel album.
Past themes have included the classic voodoo doll (inaugural year of this project), Day of the Dead, animals, steampunk and the circus.
Did you originally start sharing on social media? How has the way you engage your fans/audience evolved over the last six years?
This has been a social media challenge from the beginning. Initially I used social media simply to keep myself accountable, but the public has really embraced the idea of naming each character. In fact, this project has become far less about me and more about the community of people that follow along and compete to name each piece.
In the first year it was a small intimate group of participants, compared with this year when each piece garnered 80-100 name submissions. I find myself engaging with the audience primarily online since people from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe participate. One of the coolest things about the online naming challenge has been watching members of my audience get to know each other and interact. However, the live event at the end of the challenge has become a reunion of sorts, and it does give me the opportunity to interact with many of those involved in person.
What are some of your favorite names the public came up with this year?
One of the most interesting things about this year has been that people submitted names that changed the entire meaning of pieces for me. The name “Penny Lane” was submitted for a VooDood that I created based on the song “She’s a Rainbow” by The Rolling Stones. The person submitting the name felt this piece was inspired by “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. She made jump to the film Almost Famous and its main character, Penny Lane. It occurred to me in that moment that the song “She’s a Rainbow” is about being a free spirit — the essence of the character Penny Lane. I never saw that coming, but it really moved me.
A VooDood inspired by Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives” inspired a beautifully thought-out submission of the name “Sunday Caller” which was itself inspired by a history of Elvis Costello and The Clash. The final VooDood of the challenge, inspired by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” was simply named “Jones.” Using David Bowie’s given name, David Jones, was a fitting tribute to name the last piece in the collection. After all, it was the first and last character David Bowie would play.
I also made a bonus piece — a VooDood with a guitar, singing his heart out in front of an open guitar case, filled with hearts. This one was not inspired by a specific song, but more of a tribute to busking musicians. Then the name “Roadie” was submitted. The minute I saw the name submitted, I associated the song “The Load Out” from Jackson Browne with it, and it became about the hardworking folks who make the music happen.
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