Happy Birthday Pandora!

by angeliska on July 22, 2011

Today marks a very special holiday indeed – the birthday of my dearest darling, Miss Pandora Gastelum.
In lieu of getting to celebrate her whelping with her (the travesty of why this cannot be is detailed below),
I am writing this here, so those of you who do not know her can begin to, a little bit – and for those of you
lucky enough to have encountered this very rara avis – this ruby-throated hummingbird of a girl, well –
today’s the day to send her some goodwill and happy wishes! This isn’t just any old birthday either, mind you!
Our little pea-pod princess is has made 30 journeys around the sun today! Can you even believe it? I cannot.
School picture day! 7th grade. For real.
You see, we met when I was 13 and she was 11. The setting: a manky teenage boy’s bedroom in the trashiest
trailer in our neighborhood. I was in the middle of having my first kiss with a chubby boy who I agreed to try
making out with on basis of the fact that he had Robert Smith hair (sort of). The soundtrack: The Glove – Blue Sunshine.
With song titles like “Punish Me With Kisses” and “Mouth to Mouth“, it really couldn’t have been much more apt. I was much
more captivated with the album (it took me years to track it down and hear it again! Still a major favorite.) than I was
with the kissing. I think I was a little stoned, and all I could think about was giant pink slugs undulating. ¡El Grosso Maximo!
At the sound of the door creaking open, we wriggled apart, and through a veil of shaggy bangs that I thought hid my awesome
coke-bottle glasses (they totally, uh, didn’t.) I spied a feral wolf-child. A sullen cherub with a nimbus of golden curls that glowed
in the blacklight bulb. She stomped in all tough in plaid skater shorts and monkey boots. We eyed each other, and I think both
realized instantly that we were saved. Literally, in so many ways. We say it all the time, but it doesn’t make it any less true
that if we hadn’t stumbled across each other at that time in our lives, that both of us would have probably ended up dead
or worse. How fate decided to bless us by having our parents find houses right down the street from each other made up
(a bit) for all the other ways she decided to completely fuck us up. Soon, we were spending every free moment together,
hanging out in burned-out, abandoned houses after school and sneaking out of our bedroom windows to smoke pilfered
ciggies and wander around. Eventually we were dressing up like baby hooker vampires and cadging rides to nightclubs
and yet somehow made it back in our beds every night before 4am and go to school in the morning. We were wild, bad
little Lolitas, and it’s a goddamn miracle that we made it out of adolescence so (relatively) unscathed. Amazing, really.
angel + pandora
I can’t find the picture of us as baby vampires, so instead here’s us dazed + starry-eyed after modeling in our first fashion show
at the very first New Bohemia, when it was over on Duval. Back in the day, man. We were such babies! Children! What.

Pea on St. Valentine’s Day back in our old place on Royal + Mandeville.
Observe her emu claw diadem and scars from Cupid’s arrows. Heartbreaker!

Sweet valentines. I am grateful to say that this girl was my very first lover, and who better to be initiated into
the mysteries of love than the person you love most in the world, your best friend and partner in crime?
We were lucky. We are lucky. She has taught me so much in these past (holy shit) 19 years…

Queen Marie, still from Pastrisetimania. – “Cake Sits, a fetishistic photo series.”

This video is a collaboration between Dana Sherwood and The Black Forest Fancies
An incorrigible collector with an eye for the exotic captures a swan girl and holds her captive in a confectionary cabin

For the past few years, Pandora was working with the Dream Community in Taiwan,
living in rural villages, and working with the inhabitants to build large scale puppets and stage colorful parades.

I’ll let the beautiful Princess of the Puyuma tell you about it in her own words:
In this year overburdened by impossible goodbyes, I’d simply forgotten to miss Taiwan.
I’ve taken the double life summer dive headfirst into color I never can suffer at home.
The electric magenta hibiscus, relentless fuchsia and indigo of tree climbing orchids.
Tropical shades that sear the retina when viewed at midday and emanate neon through
thunderstorm gray. We have such colors in the swamps where I’ve nestled. We’ve the
requisite cruelty of the hot house garrote, anesthetized in narcotic notes of jasmine and datura.
But here these colors throb with mountains’ magic, erupting from black rock and vapour like Boschian
airships suspended in battle – a mesozoic sex display, the glow of which recalls the natal moments when
this magma formed landscape was molten. The timeless beauty of the mountains underlining indignity
of the cinderblock cityscapes, alive with devouring mold. Tree and trellis spangled with giant spiders,
Giger aliens spinning omens, and all we monstrous spinners on display.

Our parade work this year concerns the rediscovery and celebration of Taiwan’s aboriginal cultures.
There are 14 active and politically recognized tribes in Taiwan today, each with their own unique language,
mythology and cultural practices. There are at least a dozen more unrecognized tribes whose organization is
decentralized, as reflected in the death or morbidity of their language and dispersal of their genetic strains.
Archeological research suggests that the ancestors of the current tribes have been living on this island since 8000
years before Chinese immigration began in the 17th century. They have an ethnic identity that is distinct from the
Asian mainland but now comprise only 2 percent of Taiwan’s population, the majority of the population being
ethnically and linguistically Chinese. From the beginning of recorded history the aboriginal peoples have experienced
economic and military conflict with a global menagerie of covetous colonizers: western and northern Europeans,
north and south Americans, the Japanese, who came armed with the anvil of archeology. They staged digs and
opened museums, nailed bare asses into grey woolen writing desks in a thousand thatch roofed classrooms.
Turning practice into history as they systematically laid the – timeless – life of the village to waste.
A clock forever counting circles round the irrevocable bootprints of modernity.

Today as ever looms the ubiquitous spectre of lady China, face-shifting parasite sister to the all-too-proximal north.
These colonial viruses have redefined the island with almost comic regularity, invasions so frequent that they echo the
seasonal tracks of typhoon – violently resurfacing the patterns of life and landscape with language shifts and cultural
(re)assimilation. In keeping with the common plight of indigenous peoples the world over, Taiwanese aboriginals face
steep social barriers rooted in prejudice and exclusion: unemployment, substandard state provision for healthcare and
education, squalid housing and farming conditions, staggering rates of alcoholism and drug addiction. Since the 1980s
efforts have been undertaken on the part of the surviving tribes toward a revival of ethnic identity.
These include incorporating elements of their culture into commercial and artistic endeavors, pop music and pageantry.
That’s where we parade makers figure in. Putting craft through its paces and the spinners on display.

Falling in love with an enameled sewing machine. I mean, wouldn’t you?
The Mudlark Confectionary a cabinet of curious conceptions.
Dolls of The Mudlark Confectionary

Saint Dymphna
These days though, Pandora owns and operates the Mudlark Public Theatre in New Orleans upper Ninth Ward
neighborhood and is the artistic director of that space’s resident company, The Mudlark Puppeteers and co-founder
of the Black Forest Fancies Ltd. She makes puppets, dolls, sets and stories. She is a weaver of magic webs.

A puppet from The Black Wallows Foundling Hospital.
So here’s the deal, in her own words:
In the month of June I had the extreme pleasure of working as a craftswoman on an installation of my dear friend Mark Dion’s
design for a site on a National Tourist Road in Norway. The piece will be located at the top of a mountain, near a glacier
in the incomparably beautiful area of Ardal. A number of world-reknowned artists have been selected by the Norwegian
Tourist Bureau to contribute work to such sites. Notable among these is the last work of the brilliant metal artist Louise Bourgeois,
which is a memorial to the victims of the witch-burnings at Vardo Island, in the North of Norway.
Mark’s piece is cavern containing manufactured rock and mineral formations and artificial bear sleeping atop a mountain of artifacts
both collected and manufactured for the piece. I spent five beautiful weeks generating the cave architecture and some fake paleolithic
artifacts with a group of very talented and lovable fellow-artists. The hours were long and the weather often extreme, but we were
comfortable and happy from start to finish. Our every need was met while we were on site, and the accommodations were more than
comfortable. I had every reason upon submitting my invoice to think that I would be financially compensated for my time in a manner
as prompt and efficient as that which the other practical aspects of the work had enjoyed. I was sorely mistaken. A week out, I began
my inquiry as to the state of the pay. As a self-employed artist, a full-time New Orleanian, and the owner/operator of both a theatrical
venue and a touring company, I budget my life with extreme care and planning.
I am constantly at work and seeking future opportunities. I now, a month after completing my contribution to the piece in Norway, still
haven’t even the vaguest clue as to when I will be paid. None of us do. Even Mark, with his esteemed reputation and integrality to the
completion of the project next year, has been given what can only be called ‘the serious, red-tape runaround.’ At first we were told simply
to be patient, that everything was being done in its proper order. The latest word is that all payments are on hold until the end of the
Norwegian Summer holidays – at some time in August. While the bureaucrats summer in sunnier climes, our invoices are evidently on some
Kafka-esque nightmare ride through the gears of a grim machine of the very old garde, and as in Kafka, there is no indication as to where
or when the ride might terminate. In short, I budgeted my life around money I have no access to for the indefinite future.
I have been unavailable for all other work in this period and consequently find myself at a pretty serious financial impasse.
I have had to cancel many plans, the most poignant being a visit to my hometown of Austin, TX to visit my oldest friends and
light candles at my parents’ memorials in honor of my 30th birthday, which is July 22nd.
I am hoping to sell some of my past-works, mostly hand sculpted art-dolls, to offset the deficit.
– Pandora Gastelum
If you’d like to help, please take a look at some of her work over at The Mudlark Confectionary,
and be on the lookout for her handmade art dolls for sale soon on etsy under mudlarkconfectionary
(we’re working on getting her shop up, but in the meantime, let me know if you have any questions
about purchasing pieces!) She has gifted me a new dolly for my every birthday for years, and each
one is perfect and comes intact with their very own soul. I treasure them enormously.

(Photo by Petra Arnold)
Happy birthday, star of the sea, poppy petal princess, peach-pie pea-pod, sweet sister, dearheart!


Happy birthday Pandora, you are astonishingly creative. I love love love your puppets and art dolls.

by Stephanie on July 22, 2011 at 8:38 am. Reply #

by wiley Wiggins on July 22, 2011 at 9:10 am. Reply #

I guess html is a comment no-no. Here’s a second try.

by wiley Wiggins on July 22, 2011 at 9:11 am. Reply #

You two seem share a set of eyes.

by Ian Wood on July 22, 2011 at 9:22 am. Reply #

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