Trevor Lalaguna’s costumes make the mind wander
Humanities Center Gallery400 W. First St.
Chico, CA 95929-0800
Trevor Lalaguna pulled the huge, black, fabric-and-wire-framed head over his own, eased the attached air tank onto his back by means of backpack-like straps, and plugged the whole unwieldy contraption into a wall socket.
In a short time—to the accompaniment of the loud whir of the air tank—the head was inflated to its full glory, its two big eye-like areas bulging—making Lalaguna look like a big, black pumpkin head, or like he was wearing an unusual, oversized diver’s helmet.
Actually, he looked mostly like a giant ant.
Lalaguna recalled running from the Chico State campus wearing the weird ant-head to various downtown businesses (he likes to occasionally “perform” his pieces), where he would ask if he could “plug in for air” for a bit to keep his head inflated.
“Mr. Pickle denied me,” said Lalaguna, “so I went to the hair salon next door and said, ‘Do you think I could plug in for a while so I could breathe?’ The woman working there said, ‘Yeah, uh, I guess so.’
“It was funny—there were all these women under hairdryers—and me. A lot of blowing and humming going on, and all these ladies looking at me.”
“But I’ve also been threatened with, ‘If you don’t stop this, I’m going to kick you,’ ” he added.
The giant ant-head was part of a bag of artsy tricks the 30-year-old local artist and Chico State MFA student (who also teaches drawing and design at the university) had brought to my house to show me, my 8-year-old daughter and my curious 13-year-old neighbor during a recent interview in advance of his upcoming show at Chico State’s Humanities Center Gallery: Co-motion.
We were variously entertained by Lalaguna standing there awkwardly in a variety of get-ups. His large, red-satin “arrowhead” is literally a big, red, arrow-shaped helmet made from fabric with a metal frame, that Lalaguna places over his own head and points the direction of whatever he is looking at. And then there was the shiny, orange glove he calls “Tracer” that he took to the last Burning Man, where he let its 15-yard-long fingers fly in the desert wind.
We got to see photos of Lalaguna dressed in a peculiar red-orange polyester body-bag (he does all his own sewing and welding, by the way) outfitted with one frilly eye-hole and a lacy-fingered sleeve for just one arm, lying on the Chico State lawn to see how people would respond. He also had pictures of a friend of his wearing an oversized, green, funnel-shaped headpiece that looks vaguely amphibian, and an odd suit-for-two that would make the people wearing it look as though they’d been joined together by thick strands of stretchy chewing gum. “Well-Balanced Meal,” which will be part of his current show, is an odd dining-table-for-four which is Lalaguna’s commentary on the current state of family dinnertime.
He even pulled out his sketchbook and shared his ideas on “wheelie boots” (shoes with one wheel that are impossible to roll along on without help from a friend), “boatheads,” “teeter-torture” (it’s a self-punishing version of a teeter-totter), “shovel-shoes” and five-person “superpants.”
These are the kinds of things that occupy Lalaguna’s time and imagination.
“Everything I make is based on the human figure,” offered the very likable artist.
And all of the art he makes functions as a type of social critique. The red arrowhead, for instance, came to Lalaguna as a result of him pondering the plight of those poor people who are paid minimum wage to march back and forth on the sidewalk waving a sign advertising a sandwich shop or a store going out of business.
“You know, using a human as a prop—a post in the ground getting displaced by a human,” he explained.
“If [my art] allows you this portal to open up and really examine [what I am doing] and allows your curiosity to bloom and your mind to wander, then it is successful.”