Mannequins are usually only seen as vessels of the medium of sales and advertising products. This word comes from the French word mannequin, which had acquired the meaning “an artist’s jointed model”, which in turn came from the Flemish word manneken, meaning “little man, figurine”. However, that’s not what Ralph Pucci from Northeastern University seems to think. He understands an even deeper meaning of their impact on our lives. According to him, these non-living wax figurines describe artistic expressions of societal expectations and cultural interests. There is, metaphorically, life in it. It is an understated link in the chain of historical factors that define today’s culture and art.
Pucci has been an innovator of mannequins for more than three decades now. Since he joined the family business of repairing these figures, his eye for finding art in depth in mannequins has turned his business. He now builds and sells his own wax figurines. His beautiful structures were put on display in the Northeastern’s Gallery 360, up until October 23rd 2016, titled “Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin.” The exhibit comprised a collection of the models as well as a time-lapse video of mannequins being built from start to finish.
Pucci explained the evolution of mannequins and how they have been depicting the historical changes in the fashion industry.
“Mannequins are a reflection of the time we live in,” Pucci said. “And they are constantly changing. We are about creating the wow factor, or the identity, for a store.”
His creations depict the course of changes in the fashion industry along with different time periods to reflect the mood of the particular times. Inspired by the Summer Olympics of 1976, he has created athletic-themed mannequins and figurines based on MTV shows of the 90s. As always, having a keen eye for observation, he saw the evolution of feminism. Earlier, the figures had a lady-like and proper kind of look with big eyelashes, wigs and makeup. But over time, they were molded to look more daring and more daring.
“Mannequins are something people always see, and we want to inspire people to think about how intentional the designs are and how mannequins shape us,” said Elizabeth Hudson, dean of the College of Arts, Media and Design, who co-ordinated a symposium on mannequins in co-operation with Pucci, titled “Fashioning Bodies: The Art, Business and Politics of Mannequins.”