Ashley Beth – There’s something very powerful about a pregnant woman. Especially a very pregnant woman. A woman who has carried an unborn child safely into its eight month of gestation. Who is she? What does she value? Which virtues of her own will she pass onto her child?
For Amanda Palmer, a celebrated artist local to the New England shores, her values circulate around expression, art and the unwieldy power of books.
Long has Palmer been a warrior for the grass-root efforts of the local artistic community. Her particular community ranges anywhere from Germany to South Africa to New Zealand and back to the commuter rails that bypass 95 into the heart of the cities that made her, Boston and New York
It was in the heart of New York City, in fact, where she would choose to debut her last bout of warrior power before retreating into “the Woods,” as she described her upstate New York stomping grounds, to give birth to the child she has conceived with Neil Gaiman. As a graphic novelist and writer, Gaiman is a warrior of the written word in his own right.
The evening of Thursday, August 20 found Palmer being escorted by the hand of her husband, up the wooden steps of a pedestal which would come to be surrounded by children’s books gifted one by one from a long queue of Palmer’s fans, while she herself stood naked, her entire body painted into a living statue depicting her own interpretation of Damien Hirst statue “Verity” which overlooks the harbor in Ilfracombe, Devon, United Kingdom.
Her husband, Gaiman, chose the title of her piece as “Truth and Consequences,” but the statement was made solely by Palmer who stood bare in the middle of Manhattan, on the steps of the New York Public Library, wielding a bronze painted sword in one hand and a ukulele in the other. Before the crowd of fans queued into a line, the mass that gathered round the empty pedestal was large and colorful enough to draw the inquiries of the most jaded population of street-walkers on Earth–New Yorkers.
“Who’s up there?” curious passersby would ask. Others would ascend the shallow steps of the magnificent Bryant Park to see for themselves. Others still, took photographs. For thirty minutes the stirring of young people, the reading glasses and tattoos, the undercuts and embroidered cardigan sweaters, would crawl out of the wordwork of 42nd street and 5th avenue. No longer did the streets seem just a consequential cascade of cabs and loading trucks, but the background to the next proclamation of young power. For thirty minutes there was an air of mounting excitement, which seemed to electrify the air around the library, reminding one of those tense, windy moments in which Sigourney Weaver climbed the steps in the original ‘Ghostbusters.’ After such time, the ever-capable, Palmer-project-executor, Michael Pope, would start announcing directions to the large gathered crowd.
What followed was a silent procession of people who peacefully passed by the pedestal. Each person beautifully bestowing a new, purchased book of promise to pass onto the next generation. It was a book drive that would benefit the New York Child Literacy campaign, which seeks to provide reading books at home for children whose families could not afford to build them a library.
After Palmer descended the pedestal, remnants of the crowd remained. She left an alter to the Gods of Literacy, an offering to the children of New York, and a warm, temporary farewell to her fans. For a Goddess of the Gift of Art, a Geisha mused Master of the Art of Asking, this last art gesture was fitting. Ironic, because for this art project, our Empress wore no clothes.