As a child in the Bahamas, I heard pirate stories that were more reality than fantasy. The islands were subject to bootlegging, blockade running, illegal immigration and drug trafficking. My brother told me stories about Anne Bonnet, an Irish-American woman who masqueraded as a male pirate in the Caribbean during the 18th century. One of the ways Bonnet deflected suspicion about her double identity was by using a ceramic apparatus that enabled her to urinate standing up.
As a young girl, I was fascinated with the idea of Anne Bonnet’s device. Recently, I encountered commercially made objects designed exactly for this purpose that brought back this memory. I couldn’t resist the complex implications of such an object. Like Anne Bonnet, I, too, wanted to live out the fantasy triggered by the use of this object. My fantasy, like most, took me to an unlikely place. Such is the unexpected journey of the unconscious.
So here’s the leap: What if the apparatus for peeing while standing up was a gargoyle? And what if I actually cast this apparatus as a sculpture and used it to pee off of a landmark building in New York City? Gargoyles fascinate me, not only as hellish creatures but because they signify the mythical, shadow side of our psyche. There’s no consensus on the source of their grotesque configuration. They are functional, though, designed to disguise a funneling system that reroutes rainwater away from a building. I chose to sculpt a griffin gargoyle, which is a hybrid—a mythical composite of different animals. It occurred to me that to use my invented apparatus was to make myself into a hybrid, because as a woman my anatomy doesn’t enable me to pee standing up.