I like to wear things on my head. Hats, caps, and other head coverings help me feel contained especially when I’m in sensory intense environments. I’ve not counted my collection, but I have a little bit of everything headwear: fascinators, beanies, and a brown velvet “newsboy” from Flipside Hats that I bought at a festival in Portland, Oregon. I have a tangerine felt top hat from San Francisco maker Paul’s Hats, and a burgundy corduroy ball cap that I found in a bag of cast-offs at a clothing exchange party. I have hats I’ve repurposed, and a few I’ve reimagined through adornment, including the bare-bones straw cowboy hat I banded with tapestry ribbon. At the back, I pinned a snake brooch dotted with Persian turquoise. I wove feathers through it too, mementos from my niece’s 2017 wedding. That hat is a favorite, at least of the ones I wear most frequently.
When I was actively constructing costumes for the stage, millinery design was my best mad skill. I loved working with the materials of hat fabrication: buckram, sisal, Russian net, feathers, etc. I’ve made crowns for The Lion in Winter forged from polymer clay, and circlets of butterflies and flowers for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve made devilish horns for Robin Goodfellow, so close-fitting that they appeared to grow from his head, and a muffin cap for the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, a light and airy topper that would keep the actor from getting overheated at the outdoor production. When I look back on making these, I realize that I did not have my formal ADHD diagnosis at that time, but I did have the symptoms, including the intense hyperfocus that is part of this neurodivergent condition.
I put that hyperfocus to use last week as I created a Goat Goddess Headdress* for my participation in HOX Zodiac “Sheep”. HOX Zodiac is an art-meets-science event organized by UCLA Art | Sci director Victoria Vesna and University of Puget Sound neuroscientist Siddharth Ramakrishnan. Victoria and Sidd are both artists and innovators who created HOX Zodiac more than a decade ago. Originally conceived as a dinner that would honor the animals of the Chinese horoscope, “Hox Zodiac allows the human-audience to experience the shared history and potential of genetic diversity among animals. Here, the idea of the Hox gene as a binding element is introduced and the Chinese animal zodiac and dinner table as the structure / space for discussion is employed, allowing the format to build based on the audience interaction”. HOX Zodiac events are online at this time, hosted on Zoom, and feature artists and scientists of various disciplines in conversation about the human | animal relationship.
Goat Goddess Headdress is mostly made of paper. The horns are twists of newsprint molded around a long piece of wire. I anchored the wire onto a piece of latch hook canvas trimmed to a small oval. I then wrapped the horns and base in paper masking tape to create a unified framework. Next, I slathered the entire headdress-in-progress with celluclay, a type of instant papier-mache made from paper dust. I sculpted the celluclay with my fingers and the back of a spoon to get a smooth surface, then let it dry overnight.
The next evening, I lightly sanded the horns, then adorned my creation with bits and bobs I had around my house. I used little paper swirls to represent the curly fur that some goats and sheep have. The paper itself is meaningful to me; I used strips of hundred-pound paper leftover from the memorial cards I made for Daniel Horton, my sheepy Aries friend who made the big leap. I covered the base of the headdress with silk foliage; I was fortunate to find some artificial lamb’s ears, although I am not thrilled by the fake flocking that rubs off too easily for my taste. I wrapped the horns with copper-colored floss, then tipped them with metal cones set with glass pearls. At the center of the headdress, I placed a synthetic succulent with a star-like shape, a finishing touch that nods to my backyard collection of echeveria, jadeplant, and aloes.
I wore Goat Goddess Headdress for HOX Zodiac on August 13th where we talked about all things sheep. From their depictions in sacred literature to their vibrato vocalizations, to the ways that humans pacified themselves during the early days of the pandemic by watching YouTube videos of grazing flocks, Saturday afternoon was a total goatfest. My thanks to Victoria and Sidd and Maryam Razi (our host for HOX Zodiac Sheep) for graciously supporting my neurodivergence; I am honored by this opportunity to talk about creativity and ADHD. Sometimes it’s sucky to have a brain that does so poorly with task switching, but thankfully I had the time last week to hyperfocus and take a deep dive into creative practice. And while I won’t wear my newest head covering with the frequency that I wear my black velvet cabbie hat, Goat Goddess Headdress is a reminder that art, science, and advocacy for neurodiversity are the driving forces in my life.
*I capitalized and italicized Goat Goddess Headdress because I consider this creation a sculptural work of art.