In mid-September, visitors and residents in Edmonds will get a theme park-like experience at Graphite Art Center that may remind them of the film Labyrinth (1986) or a darker version of Alice in Wonderland.
A Witch’s Gift, an original story by artist Perry Jakobs and their brother Noel Hansen, is based on Jakobs’ own experience of “not fitting in” society’s social norms. The exhibit will feature a miniature scale of a Dr. Seuss-like, Nordic village and a life-size forest with fantastical creatures that immerse visitors into Jakob’s story.
“I’ve always wanted to make a world where you could literally experience what it’s like to see these creatures in the wild,” said Jakobs. “I make beasts and I wanna put them in a place where you can see them.”
A professional dollmaker by trade, Jakobs taught themselves to craft with some influences from their father, who is a quilter, and their mother, who used to design magazines. Other influences include the works of artists Jim Henson and Ida Lissner, and Meow Wolf, an art company that produces massive installation art in large buildings.
“[Lissner does] surreal, crazy pastel colors,” Jakobs said. “There’s something about it that speaks to me.”
The idea of A Witch’s Gift started in the summer of 2022 during Graphite’s Intersections exhibit, where Jakobs had a wooden sculpture of a human torso that had a hollowed-out interior filled with tiny mushrooms, plants and creatures.
While repairing it with gallery director Tracy Felix after someone accidentally knocked it down, Jakobs told her about the idea of having an immersive exhibit.
Felix spoke to Mary Olsen, who owns Graphite, and Graphite agreed to have her exhibit in the fall of 2023. Once Jakobs got the green light, they began conceptualizing the exhibit.
“I just started sketching what I wanted, and through that, the story just kinda came with it,” said Jakobs. “I’m dyslexic so it’s very hard for me to write something that is very long. So my little brother Noel is a writer, and I was like, ‘Hey, here’s a little synopsis of what I want, if you can kinda write it in an old, tiny speak, that’d be great.’
After many rounds of edits, the story was complete, and production for A Witch’s Gift began.
Jakobs had spent this summer creating the set pieces as a resident artist at Graphite. Jakobs said that they never had a large space to create what they wanted. In July, Jakobs created an eight-legged creature with pink fur and floppy dog-like ears, called “The Beast,” that will be one of the centerpieces of their story.
Their biggest challenge is making tall trees that do not tip over. These trees are made of chicken wires that cannot support a lot of weight. Jakobs said that they could make the treetops separately and have the treetops suspended from the ceiling to give the illusion of a complete tree.
“I want them to ‘feel’ the story. The story is very important to me,” they said. “It comes from a very personal spot, like my experiences as a queer artist. Not feeling I belong in the world, not feeling welcomed in communities. And that’s why I built it the way I did. You literally have to walk through this girl’s story, experiencing it beat by beat, getting the melancholy vibe at the end.”
A Witch’s Gift opens to the public on Sept. 16, 2023 from noon to 4 p.m. at Graphite Art Center, 202a Main St., and is free.
Follow Jakobs on Instagram and TikTok to see more of their works and upcoming projects.
— By Nick Ng