Girl power moves this artful pooch

Competition: A vision of femininity, Fifi was created for the Kinetic Sculpture Race by a group who dubbed themselves `femineers.'

April 25, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Who let this dog out?

Statuesque at 14 1/2 feet tall, Fifi is a vision in pink tulle, a poodle posing for photographers in the courtyard of the American Visionary Arts Museum. When she appears this weekend, she'll be escorted by handlers in Parisian pink swing coats.

But don't mistake this chien for the star in a new John Waters flick called BOW WOW. Au contraire.

This canine is the all-girl entry in that pantheon of perpetual motion, the 13-mile Kinetic Sculpture Race to be held Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Key Highway museum at the Inner Harbor. The 17 entries include a giant cobalt-blue Styrofoam wave dubbed Beach Rescue 13 and a hand-painted wooden rodent named the Leaping Beaver.

Modeled after a 30-year-old California race, the Baltimore competition features human-powered sculptures that traverse land, sea and mud. Lots of mud. The teams compete for a series of trophies - including the Grand East Coast National Mediocre Champion - and the chance to represent Baltimore in the West Coast race.

Mark Ward, the museum's deputy director, is the brains behind the all-terrain Wave. He dressed for the part yesterday - a pair of Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. On race day, he and his partner will be carrying water guns.

The race isn't about winning, says Ward, 38.

"It has nothing to do with winning. You do it for the glory. It's not a race. It's theater on wheels. It's a living parade," says Ward.

Fifi, the pink poodle, is a first-timer, although this is not her first public appearance. She made her debut a few years back as an edible piece of art, a concoction of pink cotton candy.

"But she was eaten alive," says Theresa Segreti, the museum's director of design and education and Fifi's master. (Yes, she was eaten).

When race organizers were looking for a way to involve more women in this year's competition, folks turned to Segreti, who helped organized the first race in 1999. Segreti decided to reinvent Fifi for the event. She initially constructed a 12-inch model of Fifi from a Pee-Wee Herman doll. But the pooch had to move.

Take a 4-person bike. Dig up some Hula-Hoops. Employ chicken wire technology. Cut 3,000 yards of pink netting and - voila! - Madame Fifi.

"It was sort of the girls' way of figuring out the skeleton of a poodle," said Segreti, who lives in Rodgers Forge.

Segreti fashioned last year's ChaCha bird from cheerleader pom poms. In years past, she designed a fountain of stained glass candy that squirted pink lemonade. Her first sculpture was a giant snail, topped with seashells, and built at age 5.

"I do sort of like big practical jokes," says Segreti, a sand-castle builder turned kinetic sculptress.

In the past, Segreti says, male macho contraptions have dominated the kinetic scene here. "What the race really needed was more women. We just pushed that feminity thing all the way. We call ourselves femineers," she says.

Segreti and her team will be decked out in Parisian pink swing coats, capri biking pants and helmets covered in pink silk chrysanthemums.

"It was like planning a wedding," she says. "We had the outfits before we had the poodle."

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