Andria Morales used to be Andria Bibiloni. But since her art work is all about her identity–and Puerto Rican identity in the U.S., and everyone else’s identity as well, she decided to stage a funeral for the artist formerly known as Bibiloni.
While this project was roiling in her head, she met Beth Beverly–at a wedding in Georgia. They discovered they had Philadelphia and art in common. Beverly is a taxidermist who recently wore one of her taxidermy hats down to Louisville for a Kentucky Derby hat auction.
Before the artists met, Andria had found a couple of online videos of Puerto Rican gang-banger bikers who, before they died violent deaths, expressed a wish to be buried in their colors on their hogs, stuffed like pheasants. One of the dudes was named Morales. (the scary sting music swells!)
Our Morales, Andria, who was a Tyler MFA in 2008 after graduating from Penn, had another tricked out bike in her artistic history, with boom box and decorations ideal for the Puerto Rico Day Parade. She rode it on the streets of Philadelphia and videotaped her adventure.
When she found Beverly the taxidermist, they went to work together. The end result was a performance/installation this winter at the Rotunda. The program notes say the Rotunda event was a viewing hosted by Beth Beverly of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy–a trade she learned with one other student from a taxidermist giving classes in the Poconos. At the Rotunda viewing, Morales sat still on her bike for two hours straight. Ouch. As good as stuffed!
And now an installation at 40th Street A.I.R. this month shows the funeral arrangements, the bike, the mass cards (with Tupac lyrics on the verso), the floral arrangements, a stuffed version (Beverly stuffed it) of the real suit of clothes Morales performed in, her empty shoes, a portrait of the dear departed, and a taxidermy head of a deer departed, a church candle stand, incense, and the video of the original event. Everything is decorated to the nines in flowers plus stuffed animals, real and faux.
And then there’s a mix of music that emanates from the sound blaster on the back of the bike (actually a tricycle). The music ranges from classical to hip hop and points in-between, created by Armando Morales, the mister.
On the night I went, a conversation about funerary customs and cultural divides raged through the evening. Morales, once again exploring stereotypes, gender, and expectations, shows she can make something complicated look really simple and Pop. Then you get to take it home with you in your head and find lots of new thoughts you may not have noticed were there.
LAST RIDE: 40th St. AIR SPACE Gallery
4007 Chestnut Street
Fridays in May 2011 from 4:30-7 pm and by appointment–Andria added in comments below today 5/27: The gallery will be closed today 5/27 for Memorial Day weekend. Please feel free to contact us via our websites to make an appointment, or visit next Friday for the last time!