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MATTHEW GRAY PALMER
Public Work

“… Dooley Goes on Forever”

Cast stainless steel and cast and fabricated bronze

8' x 10' x 10'

2008

Unique

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Cast stainless steel and cast and fabricated bronze depicting Dooley, Emory University’s ephemeral mascot, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dooley’s mysterious presence begs for an explanation. The project was commissioned by Emory University with a student initiative to commemorate their ethereal and whimsical mascot. Coined " the Lord of Misrule” he appears when ever he chooses to stir trouble for the faculty of the University. As the story goes… in 1899 the skeleton from Emory's biology classroom began writing letters commenting on student life to the College paper. Calling himself "Dooley" the bone man evolved to become a symbol and voice for the student body. Tradition now passes the honor to an unknown individual that embodies the spirit in costume and whose identity a posse of privileged students protects.

“My research into the history and characteristics of Dooley conjured thoughts of the mythological trickster icons such as raven and coyote. His link to the first sanctioned dancing on campus and his dramatic entrances to the annual weeklong festivities that bear his name evoke images of a hybrid Fred Astaire and James Bond. There is also an uncanny similarity to Baron Samedi, one of the loa of Haitian Vodou (Voodoo). The skeleton itself has a unique and apt symbolic connotation for equality, as it is common to every person regardless of race, gender, faith, sexual orientation or political disposition. Whatever the impetus of the bone man, Dooley’s spirit has instilled ritual and tradition into student life and fulfills a roll as champion of the student body.

My approach for the sculptural representation of Dooley was to take the specific physical attributes of the character (i.e. the bone man with his hat and cape etc., along with his behavioral qualities as a sly, wry, dapper trickster) and merge them with his ephemeral yet enduring nature.

Dooley’s inherent visual characteristics presented a wonderful opportunity to make use of the existing dichotomous figure ground relationship of the white bone figure on the black cape ground, establishing the black cape as space, ether, the infinite, potentiality, and the white bones as light, being, focus, structure, embodiment. This has a strong metaphorical association to the purposes of self-realization and transformation through the process of higher study and the university experience. The interrelationship of shapes aim to utilize the positive and negative space to illustrate the skeleton form as he both materializes and dematerializes at once, existing in multiple spaces at once, implying the motion of time past, present, future…Dooley goes on forever. I drew inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase abstractly tracing a figure as it moves through space illustrating layered time. Also of influence was as an installation titled Mass (Colder Darker Matter) by Cornelia Parker who’s suspended forms are an effective description of matter and space breathing, expanding and contracting from a coalesced state of being.

The abstracted nebulous cape transforming into the concretized bones creates a bridge spanning the expressive to the conceptual. The opportunity to ground the viewer in the now and with a final twist of irony (exemplifying coyote) lies with the realism of the skeleton shedding his own self image - the Dooley costume as presented by Dooley himself, falling from his hand towards the base of the plinth – a cheeky wink to those who would challenge the defense of Dooley’s protective posse in an attempt to discover a secret identity. Like an infinite Russian doll peeling back one incarnation (the costume) only to find yet another symbolic manifestation (the sculpture) each pointing to that which is transcendent - the spirit of Emory, unmasking the unmasked via the vehicle used to embody the disembodied.” -MGP

For more information regarding Dooley please visit:

http://realaudio.service.emory.edu/ramgen/NEWS/dooley_v2.rm

© 2011 Matthew Gray Palmer Fine Arts

Photo credit - Danielle Dean Palmer

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