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Three go Macabre in Woodley

2 June 2015

It almost didn’t happen. My first event outside London with Art Macabre looked sure to be scuppered by the immeasurably greater tragedy of somebody dying beneath a train near the very station to which we were headed. The previous evening I’d been at the Art Macabre ‘Dying Art’ exhibition, which carried the message: Dying Matters. Indeed it does.

An unholy trinity stood forlornly on the concourse of Paddington Station: Art Macabre supremo, orator and skull-painter, Nikki aka Raven Rouge; fire-brandisher, model and master of transformation, Maya; and me. We had to reach either Twyford or Reading, from where a driver would take us to nearby Woodley in time for a 7 o’clock start. As the clock ticked towards 5pm, the departure boards remained in chaos.

Suddenly we were given hope: an announcement came that the lines were clear and services would resume shortly. Nikki dashed for tickets while Maya and I headed for the next departure to Bristol, calling at Reading. The three of us just about managed to crush on board with Nikki’s two huge bags of props. We were moving at last.

Our problems were far from over, however. The car that should have been meeting us at the other end had apparently broken down… Thus at Reading we queued patiently for a taxi. Much relief was felt when finally it pulled up to Woodley library, our venue for the evening. We had just enough time to prepare our stage and make-up.

As we were on virgin territory, Nikki could reprise some classic global curiosities from her bygone death drawing salons. First Maya would be Mayan. Did that mean I would be Steven? Apparently not. I would start off Mexican, with one half of my face painted in sugar-skull style.

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The librarians of Woodley had prepared a magnificent spacious platform for us to pose on, just beyond line of sight from the building’s wide glass façade. Seats in front of our stage were soon occupied by artists. Nikki welcomed them all, shared some historical context and then introduced Maya for her opening warm-up poses: 1, 3, 5, 7 minutes.

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I joined her on stage to symbolise Mexico inheriting the Mayan legacy – a 10-minute pose with Maya leading and me following, holding her hand. Maya then departed and left me dancing with a golden skull in a longer pose that would take us to our break.

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© Art Macabre

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© Art Macabre

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© Art Macabre

When I rejoined Maya behind the scenes she was all but naked, midway through her metamorphosis into the goddess Kali. Shortly before, a cleaner had wandered in and been startled out of his wits. My own transition simply entailed swapping the Mexican garland of flowers in my hair for a black crow’s wing fastened to the side of my head. I was now a male Hel.

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© Art Macabre

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© Art Macabre

Once again Maya began solo and then I joined in for a duo pose to close the evening. The event had been an artistic success – full credit to Woodley library for showing the courage and innovation to host it. We had time to admire the artworks before packing away in haste to catch the taxi that would begin our long journey home.

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Maya had managed to remove most of her blue Kali face paint, but I’d run out of time. Train, tube, tube, train – I returned home half skull-faced. We live in an age, however, where passers-by afford such sights little more than phlegmatic sideways glance. As for me… I just enjoy making my Art Macabre moments last that little bit longer.

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© Art Macabre

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