Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In the Realm of the Mouse Warrior: Jeff de Boer




Jeff de Boer is a one-man refutation to the sometimes-voiced idea that Canada is boring and staid (Not by me—Canada and I are pals. Vancouver! marvelous Montreal! Quebec City! I am a fan of even you, Ottawa, despite the fact that you infected me with a powerful alien snow virus during your winter festival.)

Jeff had a tinsmith father and made his first suit of metal armor in high school. In art school in Alberta he made his first suit of armor for a mouse. (Did I say that I love obsessed children? I do, having been one—and I am a mother. I have met obsession again in my own children.) Jeff has made many more mice-suits since then. These are not visual puns but elaborate “parade armor” that contains little crooks and corners and sweeps of beauty. No doubt those tiny internal gestures led to his later Exoforms, just as the playfulness led to his ray guns, rocket lamps, and large scale play and flourish.

In an alternate universe, these suits would be and perhaps are treasured by warrior mice—just as his samurai armor for cats would be and perhaps are coveted by those mighty mouse-hunters, the cats. One glance at these cunning, lovely little objects lets such a world spring into active life. Every year the maker is drawn to design a few more. In another realm, it is 2:00 a.m. and small wizardly mice are sending all their most wizardly thoughts to this one, shedding them onto Jeff de Boer. Surely he will make another under their spell, more surprising than any seen before!

His armor for executives transforms this world, reminds us of the small hammered links to the past. It reminds us that ordinary people, too, are engaged in battles and the over-toppling of kingdoms. The scabbard case, the catapult, the ringing metal of the tie stop the clock, break in and throw a bolt into the workings of the daily grind.

I like these things because they are surprising and finely crafted and show a sensibility at play and work. Further, I like them because they show how absolutely wondrous it can be to be a human being—deeply involved, in command of one’s tools, a bit quirky and frolicsome, springing forth with new ideas.

***

The mouse and cat armor pictures are from http://www.jeffdeboer.com/. As his email doesn’t seem to be working, I have basely pillaged the armor images, in the manner of a large feral cat from another universe. Also in the manner of a delicate, fierce, otherworldly mouse. Do not try to excuse them. They were barbarian warriors and had the need.

***


18 comments:

  1. These are great! They remind me of the whale skeletons made out of plastic stack chairs by another crazy Canuk artist, Brian Jungen. (I saw an exhibit of his stuff in Montreal last June.)
    http://thetyee.ca/gallery/2006/01/25/BrianJungen/index10.html

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  2. Those are in the realm of the very odd, aren't they? I like the Nike heads that approach the feeling of a traditional mask the best from the shoe series, and "Cetology" surely is the apotheosis of the lawn chair. All the lawn chair pieces are fascinating--that the idea should ever wash up in somebody's mind!

    It's 2 degrees. I'm going to write by the fire.

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  3. exteme conditions make being home all the more snuggly

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  4. Alas, alack, & well-a-day, I cannot snuggle up but am forced outside in the bitter winds and pelting snow (today it's very fine and grainy, so far) to be a ferrywoman: piano lessons, guitar lesson, Ropers, play dates, and so merrily on.

    I do frequently try to shirk going out by announcing that I am a Southerner, and that somebody else is a Northerner and hardy.

    Where does the galique part come from, fantasy or family?

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  5. My favorite Dark Shadows charachter Angelique. I just the Sus on it and become Susangalique when I want to be naughty!

    When I wear a black wig I have asumed the name Susandra before as well.

    all that ferrying around in all that snow! Dont they know us Southerners stay home, after rushing the grocery store for milk and bread, at the least sign of snow.

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  6. p.s.

    Do you really get up at 2 am to do Palace work?

    I bet you do.

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  7. Haven't you noticed?

    It's always 2:00 a.m. at the Palace. (Not in Comments though; they're never any correct time.)

    When a woman has three rambunctious children and wants to write, she must get used to the wee hours...

    Meanwhile, it's still snowing. I'm going back to the fire.

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  8. Oooo, you poor thing.

    It was warm here part of the day, but bitter cold tonight. I bought myself a warm faux fur throw tonight for my birthday though, so I am snuggling as well.

    I found it odd when I moved down here that people bought all of that food for a snow. But I really like the burrowing inside bit. A good fire, a good book and all...

    I am feeling better by the way. Thanks for all the good wishes. No diabetes, and the kidney is feeling better.

    Must go for now.

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  9. Excellent news.

    I am so glad that my fellow kidney is feeling better. A healthy kidney is a happy kidney.

    It is 1:06. This little kidney is going to loll by the fire and then toddle off to bed.

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  10. Thanks for the exposure to this artist...and for your delightful commentary as well.

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  11. Those are wonderfully enchanting! I wish I had some.
    He seems like such an interesting person, really leading the life he's supposed to lead.

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  12. Yes, he must have some of Amanda's "Joy in Life" bottled up...

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  13. Luckily they are not in the shops here or one might be tempted to buy one. I have potential customer who will love them, as you say an obsession.

    Cool I think is the right word.

    It is 8 degrees C here in our frozen village but I still feel cold. We must be warmer than you over there; all that gulf stream between us. (After Chris's tie I better be careful.)

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  14. Cool: definitely! Even definitively cool!

    We're at 8 degrees fahrenheit. Maybe less by now. It has been snowing all afternoon.

    Yes, please be careful with his tie! (Couldn't resist.)

    One couldn't help poking (so to speak) a little fun at his beloved naked ladies...

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  15. Kizmet says "I want some."
    Jossie says "Mouse?! Chase a mousie?!?"
    Sput says "-----ppprrRRTTTT!!! SHINY!"

    Oh, these are wonderful upon wonderful, and the mail-backed cat helmet put me in mind of the cover from that Seamus Heany translation of Beowulf.

    What a gift! Thanks for sharing Mr. de Boer's work.

    By the way, still laptop-less but The Mur has set me up as a user on his Mac, so I'm slowly back to posting images as well as words.

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  16. Lady Azure & Theodora9:57 PM, January 29, 2007

    Mrrrowl!
    Mrroriaou...

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  17. These are delightful. Now I want a bunch of armorclad mice running about my shop.
    But I think my cats wouldn't agree with me on that.
    You have the eye of an elf queen, Marly.

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  18. Hi Lori and Jarvenpa--

    Yes, they are wonderful and delightful. I'd like to give a small gold mouse to Hawthorne when they invent time travel.

    Eye of an elf queen? What a pleasant idea, when in truth I am more likely to have the stubby little toe of a hobbit. Oh, to be tall and grand!

    Lady Azure,

    Until you learn more ladylike habits, I shall not deign to notice you here.

    Theodora,

    Mrrowl!

    ***

    Speaking of hobbits and habits, I've always wondered why Shipley goes on about the source of Tolkien's "hobbit" without ever once mentioning "habit," because hobbits clearly adore their homely tradition or daily habits. Cross a cosy food-warming "hob" with a mischievous hobgoblin hob, and then add homely habits: hobbit.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.