Life on a String
Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti's Depot Town. This small but lively theater showcases offbeat original puppet shows, puppet improv, open-mike nights, musicians, invitation-only art film screenings, and, this month, an exhibit of fifty-five of Venturi's arresting puppets.
Venturi made - by hand - about half of the marionettes and rod, shadow, and hand puppets in the exhibit, which range from menacing to campy to wonderfully weird. She assembles some from found objects such as vintage doll heads and colorful ribbons of industrial wire, but most are built from scratch.
Six or seven grapefruit-size, moonlike heads staring fixedly from a cluttered desk in Venturi's Ypsilanti studio-home reveal various stages of puppet evolution. She roughs out heads from claylike Model Magic or a built-up ball of ropy sprayable foam. On some heads she layers cut strips of plaster bandages to build up cheekbones, eyebrow ridges, and other facial features. After constructing and painting a body, Venturi sews outfits for her creations that range from the Mardi Gras-lurid costume festooning a Punch puppet representing President Bush to the torn and stained sweater hanging on a wild-eyed Unabomber character.
Other handmade puppets in the exhibit include two gaunt figures representing Ignorance and Want, a cheery giant potato chip, and a sexy female postal worker with glass cat eyes. (The postal worker played the sweetheart of the Unabomber character in Venturi's recent show Chemical Traces.)