Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vintage Puppet: Nightmare Army Jacket Man

OK, I probably shouldn't be doing this, because it's just reminding my wife that this thing is in our house.  It's probably the creepiest vintage puppet I have.  I think I got it at an antique store -- I can't imagine someone selling it on eBay.

So, what we've got here is a puppet with a strange, hand-painted clay or papier mache kind of head (is this what the old puppet-making books call "composite"?).  There's a pretty well planned out -- if not well-executed -- army green jacket of felt, and a thin black fabric shirt.  Something weird is going on on top of his head, which might indicate that there was a hat or something that hadn't survived by the time this lil' guy got to me.

His face is all kinds of wrong, and it's too early in my analysis to conclude whether this was purposefully done or not.  His bulbous nose and anatomically vulgar baggy eyes make him look like Lady Elaine Fairchild's drunken, lecherous cousin.  His rectangle of unnaturally red lips look like he put on lipstick backhandedly with his fist.  His jaw is supposed to wobble up and down as you move him, but it's too tightly sprung.  You can move it up and down with your finger, but it's not going to do it on its own.  That's probably a good thing, because his mouth is sparsely dotted with horrible skeleton-like teeth made of tiny pieces of balsa wood.

Here's the thing that really gets me: check out how much time was spent on carving these tiny hands:

...but contrast that with the feature of this puppet that kinda gives me the chills -- like suddenly realizing you've been wandering through a garage sale that's being run by a serial killer: the head is attached to the fabric body with two tiny nails, one in front and one in back.

It's possible that these were attached by someone other than the original artist, after the head came loose from the shirt.  It's possible that some teenager made this in an art class, and spent just enough time making tiny hands and a gruesomely detailed head to get a decent grade and then nailed the thing together.  But I've got this awful feeling that this puppet was made by a genuinely insane person.  

I'm not a psychologist, or forensic pathologist, or anything, so I can't piece together who this genuinely insane person might have been.  But I'll choose to believe that this puppet is a self-portrait.  And that he's dead now, and neither heaven nor hell would take him, so his tortured soul inhabits this puppet. 

Now that I think of it, maybe I'll keep it in the garage from now on.

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