By Tchera Niyego
When children see clowns they instinctively think ‘deluded adult’. They are much too clever to buy the big red ball as a ‘real’ nose. More interestingly, they are much too bright to be fooled with the big feet to be ‘unreal’ just the same. Children have it all going for them that we so-called-adults long forgot about.
During the two years I was a clown -hired mostly for birthday parties of toddlers to adolescent- I endured three basic reactions the kids had for clowns. One; they are scared to death and cry out loud for their life, two; they hate the ‘demented grown-up’ so they attack with all their might kicking, punching and humiliating the joy out of you; or three; -and this is most rare among all kids-, they identify with the ‘poetic’ clown and love you. Surprisingly enough there’s not much a clown can do to change this initial gut reaction either. No magic tricks, physical comedy routines, animal shaped balloon-making or face-painting is much likely to change the child’s mind.
Jody was the stage name of the romantic clown that decided Viggo Salting’s fate, as the artist puts it, at the age of 30 upon visiting the circus for the first time with his beautiful wife and three young children. Clearly as the relating to a dramatic rhythm and beauty decides one’s fate regardless of age…
ViGGo the clown wants to be the smile. Once he finds himself as a painter, he hides the sadness of his audience as a clown. He then ‘Carries it Out-of-the-Circus’ on his back until it is transformed into ‘The Smile that Lasts a Mile”. A mile connotes forever. ViGGo can dance with skillful means as our little princess at home can dance the ballet and indeed he can drum just like the little prince to whom we can safely read the artist’s story at bedtime. ViGGo can perform magic with his nose as well but the clown becomes thoughtful when it comes to magic, music and poetry.
Wonder the determinate attribute of Salting’s clown that hangs on the moon. This is the aspect of the ‘thinking clown’ mirrored as dew in his shoes.
Salting illustrates the sadness of the clown along with the old entertainer – a second character of a clown with the long nose and an altogether different attitude and aptitude as opposed to the benevolent clown with the round nose. Who can meet Pinocchio the lying puppet and continue to live to honestly say they are innocent? We could make a case saying that one is no longer a child once introduced with Pinocchio and/or paradoxically that one can no longer assume the pose of a true adult once the wooden figure enters the picture with his nose getting longer with every white lie. Pinocchio is Salting’s clown witnessing himself suddenly standing still, bathed in spotlight at the center of the circus ring as the climax of the artist’s story in the third volume of his picture books for children of all ages. Here we see the two faces of the clown; the humble one bowing down while the traitor gives him in, informed by the little rascal standing with his nose up in the air. The backward spinning has begun. The entertainer now with his smile between his fingers reaches out to his Friend, climbing up and running. The return is the very-heart of Viggo Salting’s story that which we will leave for the playful imaginations of the children the artist’s story is to be told to.
Salting started responding to life through his pencil at the age of four. The young artist employed Donald Duck and other Disney characters as his clowns, already informing the world of our folly. Nevertheless today, it seems increasingly more than ever; we grown-ups much too easily buy into the Lady GaGa tunes, crowning the clown of pop ‘the Queen of Downloads’.
In Salting’s decidedly happy-ending picture stories for youth however, dancing, smiling and laughing the two clowns merge in silence. A ray of sun finds its way through the clown’s tent enlightening children of all ages and the music begins…