Nut who ran for mayor has place in B.C. story
Artist chosen as one of the province's most influential characters
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
He's not nuts, but he has spent lots of time pretending to be one.
And now artist Vincent Trasov, who dressed up in a Mr. Peanut costume in 1974 and ran for mayor of Vancouver, is being honoured by the Royal B.C. Museum.
"We have chosen Mr. Peanut as one of this province's influential characters of the past 150 years and part of the centrepiece of our installation called, Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and B.C.," said museum exhibits director Tim Willis. Mr. Peanut is part of a 3-D collage that looks at the thread of free spiritedness that runs through this province's history.
"It's a great honour to be chosen," said the smooth-talking Mr. Peanut, who was at the museum in plain clothes Monday. He is a little too "chunky" these days to don the dapper papièr mâché garb of 30 years ago.
"I've grown out of the costume, both emotionally and physically," he said with a grin, but came here to present Willis, and the Provincial Archives, with a book called The Peanut Campaign, the Rise and Fall of the Peanut Party. Written by his campaign manager John Mitchell, it tells of Mr. Peanut's role in the November 1974 contest and how he garnered almost four per cent of the vote -- or 3,000 votes.
Mr. Peanut never talked at all-candidates' meetings, but tap danced with a bevy of young women called the Peanettes, while Mitchell did the talking. But Trasov can still spout the peanut platform: "P was for performance, E for elegance, A for art, N for nonsense, U for uniqueness and T for talent. It's a message that's stood me in good stead all my life."
"Looking back, I'm glad I wasn't elected, because I've been able to function as an arts ambassador, a peanut diplomat," said Trasov, 60, whose gentlemanly persona had a top hat, monocle, white gloves, spats and cane, just like the Planters Nuts original.
The campaign slogan -- "Elect a nut" -- was dreamed up by Western Front founders Trasov, Mitchell and Michael Morris and in a nutshell, it was about performance art and street theatre. Mr. Peanut made appearances in such places as New York and Toronto and enjoyed the notoriety. "The costume was comfortable but the tights were a bit itchy."
And Mr. Peanut still has a life too. Trasov had a show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2006 and was recently invited to stage a retrospective of Mr. Peanut at the Museum of Modern Art in Bremen. Such events often include Trasov's creations of the nut in monumental form, portrayed as the Sphinx or Rodin's Thinker.
Trasov, who once bought his wife a pair of silver peanut earrings, is also receiving one of the annual Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award this month.
Victoria-based Morris noted Andy Warhol invited them down to his Factory studio in New York back in the mid-1970s and wrote an entire page about Mr. Peanut in his Interview magazine. Italian Vogue and Esquire followed suit. "In Vogue, Mr. Peanut had a spread opposite Sean Connery," he recalled with a smile.
Dr. Martha Black, curator of ethnology at the RBCM said: "These nutters went on to become noted and very influential artists. The founding of the Western Front was a pivotal time in B.C. history, a time that led to some very serious art."
Exhibition designer Megan Anderson agrees and chose Mr. Peanut because, "he and other local conceptual art models are an important part of our cultural identity."
To compile the list the museum surveyed visitors, staff, volunteers, and referred to the B.C. Almanac. People were chosen to represent the widest range possible: alive and dead, men and women, young, old, famous, not famous.
She compiled a list of 132 people, but has left 18 vacant places for public nominations. These can be made in person at the museum, or at http://www.freespiritbc.ca/virtualex.../theparty.aspx
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
Fun stuff. It sounds like people were a bit more open minded back in the 70s. Here, people get up in arms about art unless it's a statue of a famous person or a plastic orca.
"The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009
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