September/October 2016: I was doing decor and custom art installations to turn an old petting zoo barn into an art experience for visitors to Stanley Park's "Ghost Train" produced by Mortal Coil Performance with the City of Vancouver. I was assisting an amazing puppet artist who had been doing the Spooky Barn every year since 2002, Beth Agosti. Together we created a skeletons' picnic in a crypt, a series of peephole dioramas about the "Seven Ages of Man," and four Day of the Dead themed "retablos", as well as decorations in the barn's main room, the dance hall.
Here are some process shots of the work in progress for those who are curious - this was a 2 week installation using mostly recycled materials from previous years. We bought fabric, foamcore, paint, hot glue, zap straps & staples, we did a bunch of printing, and we had support from the scene shop at Great Northern Way which supplied 8 platforms and a number of old theatre flats (fake walls).
Process Shots ~ Scroll Down for The Results ~
"Retablo" Dioramas in the Dance Hall
"A retablo in Mexican folk art (also lámina) is a devotional painting, especially a small popular or folk art one using iconography derived from traditional Catholic church art." - Wikipedia
Since we had 4 empty boxes mounted on the wall in the Dance Hall, we had the perfect setting to interpretively create 4 Day of the Dead "retablos", using all recycled decor, random junk and crafty stuff. with a peek-in cover in front of each 3-D collage. Follow the process in this slideshow to get closer to the artwork!
Picnic in the Crypt
Occupying the larger main animal stall in the back hall of the Spooky Barn, the Crypt was our take on the tradition of sharing a meal with the dead. Here, the dead came to picnic with us. Using almost entirely old materials and objects found in the Barn and stored from past years I set up the graves, the decor, the draping, the props, and the mannequins... uh, skeletons, while Beth Agosti styled the skeletons' costumes. This completely changed the atmosphere of the barn.
The Seven Ages of Man: Peekable Diorama Series
In eight former animal stalls we set up custom-built platforms with a staged series of collaged images representing the Seven Ages from Shakespeare's famous text. Seen through peep-holes along a dividing wall in a dimly-lit hallway, the scenarios take a whimsical and macabre look at the stages: The Infant, The Child, The Lover, The Soldier, The Judge, The Pantaloon, and The Aged. An old wind-up music box was attached to the entrance display, inviting viewers to wind it gently, to play its haunting simple tune as they explored the installation.
"Each year the Stanley Park Ghost Train takes our riders on a journey through a mystical and magical world, inspired by Hallowe'en and other spooky tales. This family event is open to all age and offers a fright free glimpse of the whimsical world of ghosts and ghouls."
"Escape the weather and have a spooky-good time for just $2 plus GST per person. The third annual Spooky Barn is open throughout all operating hours. This charming indoor experience provides families with an escape from the roaming spirits, as well as the elements! Explore the peek-a-boo art installations portraying the Seven Stages of Man from William Shakespeare's famous As You Like It. Once you have completed your journey through the Seven Stages, celebrate to the sounds of mariachi music on the dance floor."
- City of Vancouver website
Amira Emma Routledge,