Saturday, March 10, 2018

Live Caricatures as Hanbok

There's an appeal to caricatures that’s a bit like trying on Hanbok. In Korea the old tradition clothes is called Hanbok. You can look it up or you can just imagine that it’s very ornate and fancy and cumbersome and Asian looking. You know what old traditional Chinese garb looks like. Maybe it’s what you just think of as Chinese garb period, because you’re racist but I’m telling you now, people in China don’t dress like that anymore, but tourists—and more often in Korea—young Koreans who are on vacation might go to a place where they can rent the traditional garb, and they’ll walk around and take pictures and it’s a big hoot.

There is some appeal to live caricatures that is very similar in a way. I think as professional caricature artists we can get divorced from this appeal, but the appeal goes like this. People read magazines—or at least they use to, and in the magazine you see these drawings that are there to make fun of what some famous person looks like—some face that’s always in the public eye bombarding everybody with their weird old face, more or less because to be on a tv show and communicate your views and your agendas you need to have your face there. But as a byproduct of your face being there, we all have to see it, and the caricature in the magazine points out the elephant-in-the-room stuff about your face and that sort of builds a trust between the reader and the voice of the magazine—a trust that everything is being accounted for—and a trust that the magazine has a sense of humor despite all this talkity talk their doing. 

But caricature has a home in that format and is in part, no doubt, a product of that format. 
Then someone who reads those magazines and sees those drawings and then goes to the theme park can get this simulation of what their caricature might look like, were they famous—were they in the public eye. 

So I’m just addressing one portion of the appeal. And I can’t say how big or small that portion might be. I’m sure it’s not all of it. But a live caricature artist doesn’t want to think of himself or herself or they-self as a simulator of actual caricatures. 

That is to say that a theme park caricature can’t be a caricature in that exact same sense that a magazine caricature is a caricature. Magazine caricatures deal with public figures and only have to distinguish the subject out from among all the other public figures, in order to signify the person whose face is being addressed or made fun of. 

From among what group is the live caricature customer being singled out? Is it all people? Is it the person's friends and family? The answer’s not as obvious as it is with magazine caricatures. If you come across a caricature in a magazine and feel it looks more like a friend of yours than it does Bob Dole, as long as it looks more like Bob Dole than some other famous person, you can be reasonably sure that it’s Bob Dole’s face that’s being commented on or made fun of and not your friend's.

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