UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 07 Winter 17 Library
Ed Miller between Monroe and Madison, by Megan Marlatt

The Big Head Brigade Marches on the Lawn

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Mold of President Monroe
(Photo: Elyse Smith)

When the time came to decide just how the department would participate in this past October’s Bicentennial Launch Celebration, Studio Art went big…really, really big…with a parade of giants, courtesy of Big Head Brigade, LLC, an artist collective headed by Studio Art professor Megan Marlatt. Aided by students in last summer’s Installation and Performance Art course, along with fellow artist and Big Head Brigade member Ed Miller, Marlatt created and built a series of her acclaimed Papier-mâché pieces inspired by the salute to UVA’s milestone birthday. She couldn’t have completed the task though without the help of second year Drama student, Taylor Parsons, who with the help of her grandmother, Debra Parsons, spent the summer designing and sewing the giants’ clothes. On October 6, as nearly 20,000 revelers packed the lawn to take in a multi-faceted celebration for all the senses, Marlatt and her Big Head Brigade artists led a parade of ten-foot-high giant Presidents: Jefferson, Monroe and Madison, that saw the UVA-related historical characters towering above the crowd. Then near the end of the march, soaring high was one of the Lawn’s most famous residents, Edgar Allen Poe, constantly followed by a pestering raven, designed and built by community scholar, Jim Nemer. Mr. Jefferson, Monroe and Madison would ultimately meet up with Poe for a celebratory dance at parade’s end. The idea for the Big Head Brigade came from Marlatt’s 2012 trip to Spain, where she studied the art of “capgrossos” as it is known there, with premier makers David Ventura and Neus Hosta. Her creations made their U.S. debut in Richmond in February of 2013, and they began showing up on Grounds later that year when Marlatt brought Ventura and Hosta to UVA, as well as to Richmond, for a series of big head workshops that launched her dynamic collective. 

Two Presidents: Jefferson & Monroe
(Photo: Elyse Smith)
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