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Flat Granny and Me: A Procession in My Mind

Jenny Fine photographed her grandmother for the last ten years of her life. Since her death, the artist continues to want to make work alongside her. Inspired by the “Flat Daddies” project – life-sized photos of military members that help families cope during deployments, Fine created “Flat Granny” as a stand-in for her deceased grandmother. “Flat Granny” is a cardboard cutout of her grandmother made from the images taken of her while she was alive. In a recent attempt to reanimate her still image, Jenny Fine turned “Flat Granny” into a costume.

Flat Granny and Me is an ongoing series of performances with “Flat Granny” that take place within theatrical, constructed environments. These imagined spaces are shaped by Fine’s family’s narratives and are a collision of the past and the present, straddling the line between fantasy and reality.

Her rural hometown of Enterprise, Alabama is home to the Boll Weevil Monument. Privately purchased by a local businessman from an Italian monument catalog in 1919, a Classical Greek female figure stands in the middle of the intersection in the center of town. Altered from its original design, her hands, which were once a fountain, now extend above her head clasping a boll weevil. The Boll Weevil monument honors the insect for totally devastating the region’s cotton crops. The inscription on the monument calls the boll weevil a “Herald of Prosperity”, for it was the boll weevil infestation that forced Southeast Alabama farmers to diversify their crops, replacing cotton almost entirely with peanuts. Today the boll weevil has been eradicated.

In 1968, Fine’s grandmother was named Enterprise, Alabama’s “Woman of the Year.” Along with all the beauty queens and decorated city official in the parade that year, she, too, rode down Main Street, her float clumsily swerving around the Boll Weevil Monument while she waved to the crowd below.

This live performance (A procession in my mind), with original score written and performed by Five One Experimental Orchestra, will feature “Flat Granny” along with other live performers on a stage evocative of a parade float enclosed by a 360-degree photographic backdrop. The viewer entering the backdrop, enters the space of the photograph and is transported into a dream…piles of cotton form a float, strange costumed characters and musicians are scattered throughout the room-sized diorama, while the viewer circumambulates the float on a merry-go-round of sorts.  The viewer moves while the “image” itself – the float and its occupants (Flat Granny, father, artist) – remain still or perform minimal repetitive movements like waving or tossing cotton into the crowd.  The viewer performs as an audience circling around and around the float exiting through the split in the backdrop at any point he/she wants “off the ride.”

Fine, born in 1981 in Enterprise, Ala., received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama in 2006 and a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 2010. Fine, a 2012 Greater Columbus Arts Council artist-in-residence in Dresden, Germany, has shown her work in solo exhibitions at Dublin Arts Council in Dublin, Ohio, Geh8 in Dresden, City Art Center in Delaware, Ohio and Kentuck Gallery in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She has taught at The Ohio State University, the University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China, and has worked at Susana Homes Orphanage and Women’s Shelter in Nigeria. Fine was awarded a National Windgate Fellowship from the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design in 2006 and a Fergus Memorial Scholarship from OSU in 2009.

This program has been made possible by a partnership that includes the National Endowment for the Arts and The Alabama State Council on the Arts.

The commission and first performances of Procession in My Mind were made possible by The Sculpture Center with partial support from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.