The Feet In the Box

A long, long time ago, when the streets of Lower Manhattan were still dark at night and only the brave, foolhardy or stupid ventured into the deserted area they called Soho, in the age before video games and computers, and before I was really into comix, I was one of ten New York City artists chosen by ten outgoing artists to be in the 1980 Ten Downtown Exhibition. The idea was that ten New York artists would open up their studios to the general public for four consecutive weekends in April.

I moved all my stuff to the back half of my home/studio and built a wall to hide it all and to create an empty space up front where I could display my work. Into the center of the wall, I cut a rectangular opening at chest height of the average viewer on the “gallery” side of the wall. I closed it off with a thick sheet of glass.  Into the wall and higher up, I had cut a small opening through which I could vaguely see the viewer as they looked through the “window”.

Then I built a wooden platform behind the wall that I could sit on so that my legs extended into a wooden box I’d constructed with two “leg holes” cut out of the top.

Next to the “window” on the “gallery” side of the wall, I hung a black and white photo in an aluminum frame of two mannequin legs I had found in the trash. The photo had been taken out on the street corner and was photographed as pedestrians walked by.

The legs in the photo wore my old army boots.

The same boots that I was now wearing as I extended my legs into the box. I also shaved my legs and dusted them with talcum powder so that they would more closely resemble the mannequin legs in the photo.

When the viewer looked through the glass “window” at the legs in the box, most viewers assumed that they were looking at the disembodied mannequin legs in the photo. The person would usually pause there for a moment and then move on.

Just as the viewer seemed like they might turn away, I would flex my toes ever so slightly and the person would suddenly realize that the legs were real and that there was a live person on the other side of the wall.

Sometimes they would let out a startled shriek but most of the time, they would silently become in on the joke.

Then they would drift off to the side and wait and watch –for the next person to come along. 

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