The gigantic fish, as translucent and whispery as a dream, wears an aquamarine mantle of scales on its tracing-paper skin. Temporarily speared on a bamboo pole, it waits for the person who will lift it high enough to glide through the currents of light above the wide green sea of Patterson Park.
This sculpture is part of the graceful and glowing company of illuminations that will mark the Sixth Annual Halloween Lantern Parade, a community-created art spectacle in southeast Baltimore. As many as 1,000 people are expected to bring homemade lanterns to the park at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 to partake in this annual performance of art and movement -- an artistic collaboration between parade director Molly Ross and neighborhood residents.
The Hampden artist specializes in "celebration art" and has staged pageants, parades and installations across the country. Often using communities as artistic material, Ross is known for weaving people and their art into the fabric of her creations.
"I work with communities to animate public space," she says. Next week, Patterson Park will host a procession of stilt walkers, kazoo blowers and giant illuminated lanterns designed by Ross as well as the handiwork of hundreds of Baltimoreans who have constructed their own cardboard and paper lanterns in workshops. (The event is sponsored by Creative Alliance and Friends of Patterson Park.)
The parade will proceed from the southeast corner of the park up the hill to the Pagoda. There, the evening will culminate in a handcrafted finale that features cut-outs resembling shadow puppets, using the turn-of-the-last-century technology of the magic lantern slide show. Projected on a 30-foot wide screen, this presentation will illustrate "Ole Lukoie," a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The parade's giant fish lanterns, along with its lanterns of sailing ships, are images inspired by the story.
Ross, who received her masters in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has directed every Halloween lantern parade since 2000.
"The parade's ephemeral quality is beautiful and poignant," the artist says. "I like when we build this giant thing that's so momentary and fleeting. And I think it says a lot about the community. One lantern is lovely, but 1,000! The lanterns themselves as objects are beautiful, but they are brought to life when they are performed and carried. That's when, as objects, they are most effective."
Make a lantern at free workshops today at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Adults must accompany children. Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Free; $5 suggested donation. Call 410-276-1651.