PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 23.1 (2001) 80-85
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Country Glitter: Larry Krone in Sequins
Larry Krone, Commitment, PS 122, New York, October 26, 1999; Love Can Build a Bridge, Forum for Contemporary Art, St. Louis, Missouri, November 28, 1998.
In front of a glittering tinsel back drop, three janitors swept a small stage. "The House of the Rising Sun" began playing, piped in over a tinny loudspeaker. One of the janitors shouted, "I love this song!" With that, they all unbuttoned their coveralls, revealing the tops of gold and silver costumes, and started to dance and pretended to sing. When it was over, they put their arms back in their sleeves, buttoned the tops of their coveralls, picked up their brooms and walked offstage. This was the prelude to Commitment, a performance by Larry Krone.
Glitzy costumes awkwardly hidden under workaday uniforms are perfect metaphors for many of Krone's favorite themes. Since he began exhibiting his sculptures, installations, and videos in the early nineties, Krone has employed labor intensive fabrication to produce works in which he attempts to fulfill his wildest fantasies while exposing his vulnerability in various ways. Inspired by feats of folk craftsmanship that go into tender souvenirs made by ordinary working people, Krone delights in devoting countless hours of pointless hard work to produce intricate and sentimental creations that elicit gasps of amazement, giggles, and a hint of tears, all at the same time.
Commitment was the most recent installment of an enterprise in which Krone risks complete humiliation as he lives out his dream of country music stardom. Since 1996, when he began refining his program of country renditions, Krone's obsession with country music has been steadily mushrooming. Although he is the headliner, he is almost always accompanied by family and friends, most often his sister Janet and her husband Randy. In earlier performances, they sang off-key and played ineptly, but they are steadily becoming more proficient. Every visual element--costumes, backdrops, programs, publicity flyers--is handcrafted by Krone. Limited edition Larry Krone souvenirs are for sale, including tee shirts, camisoles, and scarves printed with Krone's hand-drawn renditions of the classic bandana pattern, his name printed with large letters in the center. [End Page 80] [Begin Page 82]
Usually, the programs begin with solos. Dressed in a patchwork shirt, Elvis belt, and cowboy hat, Krone may perform Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," a tearjerker about a child who, in spite of his classmates' ridicule, proudly wears a multicolored coat sewed by his mother from scraps because he knows it was made with love. Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" ("Wastin' away in Margaritaville, searchin' for my lost shaker of salt") is another favorite solo number. A mock serious feminist segment can start with an onstage costume change that elicits hoots and catcalls from the audience, as Krone removes pants and boots to reveal a skintight pink chemise dress and fishnet stockings. Pigtailed blond wig, feather boa, and hat complete the drag, clashing amusingly with Krone's hairy chest and tattoos, for "80's Ladies," a ludicrous number about women's liberation, with lyrics about burning bras, dinners, and candles at both ends.
Then there is the "real" portion of the program. "There's been too much glitz and glitter tonight, I gotta show something real," Krone may announce, changing into a bathrobe with a big blue star on the back. Commitment featured Krone's first original song, "Never Afraid." "I dreamed I was happy and didn't have to drink. I dreamed I was a genius and I didn't have to think. . . . I dreamed I was rich and had so much money. I dreamed I had a girlfriend and she called me honey. I dreamed I was famous and always got laid. I dreamed I was tough and never afraid." But in the end, "the problem with dreams is you always have to wake."
Although live performance is a relatively recent development in his work, Krone has been making videos since 1989. Taking a cue from Vito Acconci...