Saturday, August 27, 2011

(Stuffed) Animal House: The Heidelberg Project

Thursday I biked over to the Heidelberg Project in Detroit's
east-side McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. Artist Tyree Guyten has costumed most of the houses on Heidelberg Street with brightly colored paint, musical instruments, stuffed animals, and miscellaneous found objects. Sculptures created from discarded shoes, old furniture, and altered 'Camel' cigarette posters perch on the grass between houses.

I wandered up and down Heidelberg Street like a magpie with sensory overload. A house covered in old records and violins caught my eye until I saw the matching pink car and bicycle partially submerged in a lawn down the street. My attention flitted from one technicolor creation to another. After a few laps around the block, I sat down in front of a house that was ornamented with weatherbeaten stuffed animals. Teddy bears erupted from windows. An overstuffed frog with a thyroid disorder hung, open-mouthed, from one side of the house. Around the corner, a bug-eyed dog in a banana suit stared blankly at the street. Two stories up, a mangled rag doll twisted in the wind, suspended by her hair from the roof. A faded 'Garfield' hung by its paws, crucifixion-style, from an eave. "I wonder if PETA has a stuffed animal division," I thought. Simultaneously delighted and creeped-out, I began to draw.

When I had finished sketching the stuffed animal nightmare, I moved my operation across the road. I set up my easel to face a house adorned with brightly-painted plywood and posters. "Taxi," said several posters. "God," said another. As I began to paint, the sun slid behind a mass of clouds, muting the rainbow-colored house. A small girl who lived on the next blocked skipped down the sidewalk to watch me. "You're painting that house," she piped, craning her head toward my canvas. "I want to paint, too!" Can you give me some of your paints?" I looked at her spotless white dress and imagined it transforming into a wearable Jackson Pollock. "How about doing a drawing instead?" I suggested, handing her a piece of paper and a Sharpie. She crouched on the cement, clutching the marker in her fist to draw slow, deliberate lines. A woman's voice echoed from around the corner. I couldn't make out the words, but the little girl's face fell. "I gotta go," she said, carefully placing her drawing at the foot of my easel.

Below (from top to bottom)

(Stuffed) animal house drawing

Painting of the colorful house (6"x8")

Painting with the house

Little girl's drawing

(Stuffed) animal house

Musical instrument house

Pink bike and car

Found object house

Altered camel cigarette poster fence

"War is Antichrist"

Dr. Dee

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