Claire Shegog (British), Busby’s Southern Belles, Busby’s Niqabs, Busby’s Pink Flamingos. Hand-painted figurines on painted metallic bases, glass tabletop.
Shegog transforms miniature female figurines typically used as confectionary decorations into a range of characters that evoke various cultures—the southern belle, the cloaked Muslim, the ballroom dancer—painting each one by hand and affixing hats, jewels, and other accessories. Dozens of these are arranged in circular configurations on a reflective, metallic ‘canvas,’ creating a mesmerizing 3-dimensional play of light, color, and form. At 21c Durham, Shegog presents these on the horizontal surface of the reception table, rather than on the wall, allowing viewers to look down onto and into the fantastical worlds her tiny dancers inhabit.
Born in London, and now living and working in New York City, Claire Shegog’s primary materials are the figurines often found in music boxes or cake decoration. Shegog painstakingly cleans, paints, and dresses each one, often adding 3-4 layers of paint to give the figurines’ dresses perceptible volume and weight, as well as color and tone. Tiny hats, shawls, scarves, or other accouterments are added from scratch, after which the artist assembles the figurines into a patter in a process she refers to choreography. And indeed, the viewer’s perception activates the appearance of movement, creating a new visual tableau.
Claire Shegog’s art pays homage to the famous Hollywood musical choreographer and musical director Busby Berkeley. During the 1930s and 40s, Berkeley became famous for his elaborate musical productions that often involved live performers creating complex geometric patterns visible only to audience.