Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Pie in the Hand

Buster Keaton, armed with pies.

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
-Joe Hill, 1911

For their first solo show together in nearly 3 years, the Artist Sisters (aka Miss Mindy and CJ Metzger) are running free and wild with the Pie in the Sky concept. As a highlight of this show, they have made, with the help of their friends, family, and anyone else who wanted to ride along for the fun, an old-timey black-and-white frolic of a film to be premiered the night of the opening aptly titled: A Pie for a Pie!

In keeping good step with the concept of Pie in the Sky, the Artist Sisters have thrown off the heavy cloak of words like ‘Work’ and ‘Project’ and ‘Serious’. So they will not be showing a Body of Work. They will be showing Fun, Frolic, Mirthful Creativity, and, of course, Pies. Because of this, there is a light-hearted humor that breathes fresh air into the displayed objects, painted with frivolity, but not frivolous. By their accounts, caution was thrown to the wind. Hearts were followed. Pies were tossed into the air. Because of this, we can have our Pie now.

In 1909, Ben Turpin was hit in the face by a pie in the film Mr. Flip. He rather deserved it as he trundled from establishment to establishment, tickling and goosing all the girls on the neck or cheek, looking for some affection, taking it where he could. He hit on the telephone operator, the girl behind the bar, the manicurist, and the lady barber, all to be done in by a prop from their specific trade (he gets shocked, sprayed with seltzer, sits on a pair of scissors, and thoroughly brushed with shaving cream, respectively.) In the last scene, undaunted, he tried his hand on the girl at the lunch counter and swiftly received a pie in the face. One of the classic and gold standard of all sight gags was born as this is said to be the first film to capture this gag. See it here:

Nick Swisher from the New York Yankees having just been pied by teammate AJ Burnett, a sweet ‘reward’ for a job well done. A Pie in the Face, or Pieing, has permeated culture from running gags in sports like baseball, to politics, and even charity pie throwing.

It was a labor activist by the name of Joe Hill who first penned the phrase “Pie in the Sky” as a parody of the Salvation Army Hymn “In the Sweet By and By” in which we are asked to suffer in this world for the trusted hope that there will be something better, and sweeter, in the next:

Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Joe Hill was Swedish-born and immigrated to the US after the turn of the century. As a migrant laborer, he quickly became a labor activist and travelled extensively throughout the U.S. Unfortunately for him, he got shot in the wrong town at the wrong time in Utah in 1915. There was a murder of a local storekeeper by two men, one of whom was shot. On the same said night, Hill himself had been shot on the other side of town. He was having discreet relations with an unmarried lady. There was an argument in which Foreplay to turned to Gunplay and Hill was shot in the arm. To protect her reputation, he never gave his alibi and remained silent. He was quickly sentenced to death by firing squad on November 19, 1915.

He wrote to his friend Bill Hayward: “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."

As he stood before the Firing Squad, his last word(s) was said to have been “FIRE!”

Depending on who you ask, the first custard-pie-in-the-face on screen occurred in the comedy A Noise From the Deep (1913), in which Mabel Normand, playing a farm girl, throws a pie into the Pie-hole of the ever funny and rotund farmhand Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle

Mabel Normand

Mabel Normand feeds Fatty Arbuckle

In the days of early cinema (and later cinema, really) it did not behoove the female actor to play the clown, as they were wanted and needed to play the pretty girl or the vixen. Tell that to Mae West or Lucille Ball or to the Artist Sisters for that matter. These women did and do what they want with grace and humor because now is the time to Laugh. We want our Pie in our hands and on our faces, not in floating in the Sky.

Behind-the-scenes from a Pie for a Pie

Pie in the Sky, as a now popularized phrase, expresses the sentiment that an idea is just too lofty, too dreamy, won’t happen. It’s out of reach. We as people just need to toil away in the hopes that when our lives have come to an end, we get our reward. In a word, dessert after life. The Artist Sisters’ twist on this is that we can have our Pie right now, it’s there for the taking. Joy, mirth, delight, laughter: these are all things to strive for and to have now, not tomorrow, not at the end. Thinking that our reward and happiness is a thing to be had in some other life (later, not now, Heaven, not Earth) negates our living and breathing and laughing and making the world we inhabit now the Place we expect later. We each are responsible for our own destinies, to make our inner-worlds exist on the outside, to turn thoughts and dreams into reality. Today exists, tomorrow is a fantasy. You can grab the Pie from the Sky here in this world, and you can make any Pie you want. You can throw it around. Eat it if you want. Just make sure it’s not made with shaving cream…

Blazing Saddles

The Great Race with Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis

Laurel and Hardy - Battle of the Century

The final scene that was filmed yet cut from the end of Dr. Strangelove, in which everyone in the war room engaged in a pie fight. Apparently, Kubrick cut the scene due to the fact that everyone looked to be having too much fun and it ultimately didn't fit the tone of the film.

You will Eat, bye and bye
Whipped cream delights, my oh my
Just you sit right on down, and it’s off with your frown
We’ll eat Pie from the Sky, you and I
-Rob Faucette, 2010

Join the Artist Sisters at WWA gallery for their opening of Pie in the Sky on Friday, September 10th and their world premiere of A Pie for a Pie from 7- 10 pm.