How about them apples?

Xander Marro's utopian vision at Craftland
By GREG COOK  |  June 26, 2013

 0628_art_apples_top.jpg
MUTANT FRUIT A trio of foot apples.

Glittery, smiling, papier-mâché apples walking in high-heeled, lace-up boots greet you at the start of Xander Marro’s exhibit, “Foot Apple Parade,” at Craftland (235 Westminster St., Providence, through July 20). Articulated wooden snakes float in the air beside them. Down the wall are more puppet dioramas and a gothic grandfather clock flanked by a pair of costumes made from black dresses topped with cuckoo-clock-head masks.

“I always love anthropomorphized anything,” she says. “That universe where everything’s alive . . . has always been near and dear to my heart. The whole long history of dancing fruits and vegetables. Because I think everything is alive. . . Do you ever read those stories where somebody cuts a rose in a greenhouse and all the plants respond in the same kind of way? This is getting into my hippie, witchy spiritual stuff. I do kind of believe in the energies and the life of all kinds of things.”

Marro performs puppet shows, makes psychedelic screenprints, and films avant-garde montages to invent “miniature other worlds” of beehive hairdos, dancing fruit, patchwork quilts, kids’ shows in alien crystal cave theaters, and Victorian gothic fantasy laced with feminist mysticism. She’s one of the outstanding Providence artists really due for a midcareer museum retrospective.

The Foot Apples were inspired by Coil and Sharpe, she says, “these San Francisco man-on-the-streets comedians from the ’60s who would go around and interview people about things that didn’t exist. They did this one little piece where they’re convincing this guy about these foot apples, which are this kind of apple that grows with feet, but they can’t ripen in the place where they grow on the trees so they have to walk in great herds to where they’re going to ripen.

“It was such a mind-blowing image when I heard it,” she says. Her Foot Apples became “a little mischievous, but I think they’re also kind of like lemmings. I also thought it was really interesting that the initial man-on-the-street interviews about them were being done in the 1960s before there even was the whole trajectory of Frankenfoods and food being tampered with in that way.”

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'ANTHROPOMORPHIZED ANYTHING' Marro's clocks.

Marro grew up on Long Island, where her “mom had a store that had a whole crafts zone in the basement. She taught stenciling workshops to suburban ladies. So it was something I was super-surrounded with.”

Her technique is obviously crafty, but she’s tried to short-circuit the crafty lady characterization — which “has disempowered women’s art over the long haul” — by operating mainly in the fine art world.

Marro moved to Providence to study at Brown University, earning a degree in art and semiotics in 1998. She curated the bimonthly film and live performance series “Movies with Live Soundtracks” from 1998 to 2005 and cofounded the feminist art collective Dirt Palace in Olneyville in 2000. She’s been involved in arts, housing, and immigrant advocacy via service on the boards of various nonprofits.

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