Chandra Cerchione–Peltier is a mixed media figurative artist, with a particular interest in doll art and marionettes. Her enchanting work is deeply inspired by her study of myth, folklore, and fairy tales, and by her love for fantastic literature from William Morris to Charles de Lint. In honor of our celebration of clowns and tricksters this issue, Chandra has graciously shared her vibrant marionettes and clowns from the classic comic traditions of puppet theater and opera.
"For me," she explains, "part of the excitement surrounding dollmaking is the opportunity it offers to explore modern and traditional techniques and materials. For instance, I often employ a modern technique known as free–motion embroidery, in which I manipulate fabric beneath a moving sewing machine needle to literally draw with thread. However, I am equally comfortable with the eighteenth century process of dipping sculpted pieces in beeswax, or the sixteenth century raised embroidery technique known as stumpwork. This combination of the old and the new keeps me invigorated, and affords me fresh perspectives when approaching traditional forms."
Chandra hails from Tennessee, and credits her parents with fostering her talents as both a writer and an artist. "My mother, Peggy Cerchione, is a fiber artist who joined the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1977. Although I originally intended to study art in college, it is from her that I gained much of my fine craft instruction. My writing skills were passed on to me from my father, Angelo Cerchione. Formerly a Major with the US Air Force, he wrote a number of books on land use planning — including one with an introduction by visionary architect Paolo Soleri. My father was also involved in creating the PR for the first Earth Day in 1970, working closely with environmentalist and land use planner Ian McHarg. After retiring to the North Carolina mountains, my parents became Ba'hais. I grew up surrounded by craftspeople with a deep reverence for the environment, multiculturalism, and for humanity."
Graduating with Honors from Middle Tennessee State University in 2003, Chandra received a BA in English, with a double minor in Medieval and Classical Studies. Since then, her award–winning art has been featured in nationally juried museum and gallery exhibitions, profiled in Contemporary Doll Collector magazine, and has appeared in a book (Aphrodisia II), a CD–Rom (New Masters of Fantasy, Volume III), and on television (in the HGTV series That's Clever!) Most recently, she's participated in Magnum Opus 2007, a major exhibition of figurative art at the Divine Studio in New York City.
Chandra's writing and art has appeared in Faery Magazine, Belle Armoire, ArtDoll Quarterly, and the online fairy tale journal Cabinet des Fees. She is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists, Artists United, and the Interstitial Arts Foundation. To see more of this artist's magical work, visit her website, Chandra's Box of Stars.
1. Mlle. Senyah, the Lady Gymnast (No Woman More Daring, No Woman more Modest): female marionette with red background and gold and purple dress. One of a kind polymer clay marionette, scrim, organza, and tulle with wooden handle, 14.5".
2. Monsieur Marzipan: male marionette with yellow backdrop, dressed in pink and green. One of a kind sculpted in polymer clay, dupioni silk jacket, handwoven silk trousers, specialty yarns, painted in acrylic, 14".
3. Shosho: female marionette with pink backdrop, dressed in pink and pale blue. OOAK sculpted in polymer clay, dupioni silk, hand dyed silk ribbons, trims, wooden handle, 15". Stage backdrop painted in acrylic.
4. Monsieur Marmot: male marionette with purple backdrop, dressed in yellow and gray. One of a kind marionette sculpted in polymer clay; embroidery floss hair that has been rooted, gessoed, and painted; free motion embroidery on shirt; and silk jacket has been hand wired and hand beaded, 15".
5. Pacliacci: male clown dressed in cream with red accents. One of a kind sculpted in polymer clay over a wire armature, dipped in beeswax, with soft cloth body, 18".
6. The Punch and Judy Show: Under New Management: female clown and Punch clown in tent. I have always felt that Punch was a menace — he kills his baby, his wife, the policeman, and finally even the Devil himself! I decided to put Judy in charge, and transformed Punch into a marionette that Judy can control. The figures are OOAK sculpted in polymer clay over wire and foil armatures, painted in acrylics, and the tent is made of papier mache over a wire armature. The costumes are constructed from dupioni silk, tulle, and metallic lace, with wigs made of mohair and silk. The hats and portions of their costumes are made of a fabric sandwich consisting of dupioni silk, angelina and silk fibers, and tulle, with an overlay of free motion embroidery.