The macabre tableau, ghoulish characters and discordant soundscapes crafted by Marnie Weber may appear even darker against the sunny backdrop of Los Angeles, but living in the “La-La land” of make-believe indulges her “interest in anything that’s not reality: the subconscious, channeling and the spirit world.”
Her fascination with witches is rooted in the legends of New England, where she was raised by atheists amid the figurative Chinese bronzes and Indian artworks that her father studied as an art historian. “Gods and mysticism were always around the house and spoken of in a detached sort of way,” Weber recalls. “Historically that was one of the roles of art, to imbue a sense of spirituality in the object.” A sabbatical in Taiwan introduced the young Marnie to metaphors by way of old steam engines belching and bellowing from the train station next-door that she heard adults personify as “beasts.” That memory surfaces in The Ghost Train at the Mattress Factory, a museum dedicated to site-specific installations in Pittsburgh, where Weber collected sentimental cast-offs from local thrift stores to flesh out hybrid creatures embarking on their final voyage. The makeshift construction of these strange apparitions, in limbo until May 18 alongside their idling transport to the afterworld, and the train’s wooden frame draped in white fabric are intended to “trigger emotions from a place of artifice,” Weber explains. “I love the handmade, crude, naïve way it’s almost bordering on folk art. It feels sincere to me.”
Weber completed the scene by recording a medley of sound effects and her own original instrumentals, honed over years as a musician bringing her own costumes and props to live performances. Disappointed at the dearth of women in theatrical rock bands since the 1970s, she conceived an all-female ensemble of postmortem musicians in 2007 that rise up for appearances onstage and onscreen. Models embodying these “Spirit Girls” have also posed for photographs she cuts up and reassembles as disjointed silhouettes surrounded by improbable elements clipped from magazines to compose uncanny dreamscapes.
This article was originally published in the Dec 2015/Jan 2016 issue of Muses & Visionaries. Click here to read the article in its entirety.