The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) brightens up considerably as Marsian De Lellis sweeps in with an outfit adorned with decayed dolls to match his piece, In/Animate Objects. The piece, a lone puppet atop a mountain of handmade dolls, is a companion to De Lellis’ performance Object of Her Affection. Object of Her Affection explores the life of Andrea, a fictional “Object Sexual” who develops romantic relationships with objects as she grows up.
In/Animate Objects, however, is centered on Andrea’s doll-hoarding grandmother. There is a total of 1,261 dolls in the piece, not including De Lellis’ costume.
“I wanted [viewers] to feel overwhelmed by the grandmother’s hoarding, and a sense of wonderment from all of the doll faces,” De Lellis explained. “I wanted them to experience the inner world of the grandmother’s excess and her obsession.”
And experience it they shall. The grandmother, atop the hoard of dolls, looks down on viewers as they peer in. An earthy odor hangs in the air, the result of De Lellis’ use of coffee and tea to stain the dolls.
“I got to experiment with dyes and… burying [the dolls] in the ground,… running them over with cars, scratching them, bleach baths, household chemicals,” he said. “It was a good exploration of materials and mass production.”
This piece for the COLA 2016 exhibition marked De Lellis’ first foray into mass production, which he said was made easier with the help of his friends. Working on In/Animate Objects for COLA enabled him to broadly experiment with his process and techniques.
COLA “is really important and awesome in that it even exists and supports artists,” De Lellis remarked.
His journey as a performance artist began as a child reading Omni magazine, which featured science, sci-fi, and culture pieces. While reading the magazine, De Lellis encountered an article on Rachel Rosenthal.
“She was one of the first performance artists I knew about, and I was really inspired by her. And after reading the article, I was like, ‘Wow, your body can be art!’ Art’s not just two-dimensional oil paintings on a canvas that someone hangs over their fireplace,” De Lellis recounted.
His perspective on the arts changed after that. De Lellis chose puppetry as a medium, because the inherent metaphors in puppetry, especially themes of control and manipulation, add depth to the stories that he wants to get across.
De Lellis will be at the gallery activating the installation on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.