‘Shaye Saint John videos are the internet’s answer to outsider art, and they’ve been flippantly relegated to just another thing in ” that weird part of YouTube.” There’s no big artist reveal, no studio-backed film adaptation, no corporate sponsorship. She posted videos on YouTube, and then one day, she stopped. Her website looks like it was plucked from 2001, because it was. The “Meet Shaye” page, peppered with GIFs and an autoplaying MIDI, declares: “LONG STORY SHORT…I AM AN ENTERTAINER, I AM A MODEL, I AM A SINGER, I AM A MAGICIAN, I AM AN ACTOR. I AM SO MANY THINGS! I AM ALSO THE WORLDS RECORD HOLDER FOR HAVING THE MOST PROBLEMS!”
‘Words are repeated and flashed across the screen, dolls are destroyed, mannequin legs tap and drag across the concrete. And there’s so much of it! But a few themes repeat in the videos: obsession with beauty/perfection, obsession with celebrity, obsession with connecting with others (but an inability to ever really do it). Shaye is a woman of excess. She’s on the internet 24/7, interacting with her fans and sharing autographs, she’s seeking miracle cures, she’s seeking riches. When you see her masked face in front of the palm trees and twinkling Hollywood horizon, and her strange figure slouching in front of the pink stucco houses, she simultaneously fits the scene and repulses the viewer. She’s a manifestation of celebrity excess and obsession—she’s an Indiana punk in LA exorcising her creator’s demons.
‘That creator was Eric Fournier, an LA-based artist who passed away on February 25, 2010, from complications related to his alcohol abuse. He was 42 years old. In this story, there are two Shaye Saint Johns. First, in myth, supermodel Shaye Saint John is disfigured in a freak accident and subjected to a series of horrific mind-control experiments by the CIA. Eric Fournier, shy and genius artist, takes her under his wing and helps her create art for a wider audience. Second, in reality, Shaye Saint John is a rubber mask and deflated costume draped over a wheelchair when not worn by Eric Fournier, shy and genius artist. Battling alcoholism and overflowing with ideas, he uses the Shaye character to create art while deflecting the spotlight away from himself.
‘Fournier grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, and in the mid 1980s he nourished the growing punk scene in bands like Blood Farmers and Skelegore. Before the interconnectivity of the online world, Fournier’s friends in Bloomington relied on him to import the new punk trends from LA. “I distinctly remember the great feeling of anticipation whenever Eric returned from LA. What new gem would he have dug up?” recalls a friend on a memorial message board posted after his death. “And he rarely failed to deliver.”
‘But despite his role as importer of hardcore culture, Fournier shied away from the spotlight. “I never had the impression he was at all comfortable being a singer in a band. It was not about ego or desire for attention,” another friend recalls. “He’d sort of keep his back to the audience, pull faces or whatever—keep a bit of ironic distance from the whole ‘singer in a band’ thing.” These posts were made five years ago on a message board started by Jim Faust, Fournier’s partner in the 14 months before his death. Faust was seeking insight into Fournier’s past.
‘Fournier arranged a showing of the Shaye Saint John short Turkey Day, which, according to Shaye’s website, premiered at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles on Feb 1, 2002. “A lot of people were down there, a lot of lights and stuff, regular people just don’t know what to think,” Crew recalls. Lenora Claire was also in attendance: “It freaked everybody out, and it got banned from the Nuart. I was like, ‘What is this weird puppet robot woman lady?'”
‘And that’s the thing—she’s clearly not a puppet, clearly not a robot. She’s some sort of woman, who can form sentences and move about. There’s a person manipulating the costume, but the videos never reveal the creator within. “Shaye’s like a hot dog,” Claire says. “It’s awesome, but don’t ask what’s inside.”
‘Fournier’s work has inspired a few disciples, such as filmmaker Larry Wessel, currently working on the documentary ERIC AND SHAYE. His goal in creating the documentary is bringing Fournier’s Shaye Saint John work to a wider audience, with the goal of helping Fournier get recognition as a groundbreaking filmmaker. Wessel describes Fournier’s work as “maximalist” art, or, “the diametric opposite of the extreme simplicity and ultra boredom inducing pretentiousness and elitism of minimalism.” To Wessel, Fournier’s films represent a complete freedom from convention.
‘As a figure of this maximalist movement, Shaye exists outside of Fournier himself, and her role in the mythos is tantamount to the art itself.’ — Kate Davis Jones
What’s Wrong With Shaye’s Legs?
Twenty4Seven Music Video
Starchild Project: Funfetti Cake
Playing With Matches
Shaye Saint John Youtube Channel
The Bizarre and Tragic Story Behind One of the Internet’s Original Outsider Artists
Trigger Happy: The Hallucinogenic Horror of Shaye Saint John
Behold the Hilarious, Magical Horror That is Shaye Saint John
“Cracked Actress: The Enigma of Shaye Saint John”
ON SHAYE SAINT JOHN, SUPERMODEL OF MANNEQUINS
Shaye Saint John @ Twitter
p.s. Hey. ** Golnoosh, Hi, Golnoosh! I’m so happy you like his poetry. My favorite of his books is an early one that unfortunately is extremely out of print: ‘Spring In This World of Poor Mutts’. I think almost all of his books are o.o.p., so probably the ‘Collected’ is the only easy way to go. I hope everything is wonderful with you! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, he’s fantastic, and, yeah, lacks the name recognition of many of his peers for unknown reasons. ** Misanthrope, Good. That you liked his poems. Right, I just saw its back to hurricane level again. Have fun with it. It could be fun (if you like that sort of thing) by the time it gets to you. An illusion: color me not surprised, like you no doubt. Any new bites? Poor spider. He meant well. RIP. Ouch. Both you and your car. What a weekend, dude. ** JoeM, Hi. Infinity Land is great, and they’re sweeties, and their books are as beautiful, object-wise, as books get. So he’s got a very good champion in them. I don’t know if I’ve ever even read a single Booker winning novel. Maybe by the law of averages, but it’s the same with the American lit prizes. I tend to sort of rebelliously knee-jerk view those awards from on high as a bad sign. James M. seems rather confusing. He just brought some huge stake in the Art Basel enterprise and seems to be easing out of the Fox empire. Very hard to trust that lot, though. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, B. Ah, too bad about the doc, but I guess no real surprise. There’s def. a great doc possible with that guy. I am among those who think Zidane is basically a god, yes. That was a very nice clip, thanks. Big up to your charged dude and his/your team. They’re still knocking it out of the park, to horribly mix sports metaphors? ** cal, Hi, cal. Like I think I said yesterday, the two shorts just before ‘Pomegranates’ and the feature just after are amazing. And ‘Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors’ is very worth seeing too. Joan Crawford? Hm, you know I think I don’t have any thoughts about her acting and so on. I have seen her in stuff. Big presence, maybe a bit too hammy? I mostly know her from the notorious scuttlebutt — ‘Mommie Dearest’ and all of that. I will watch that vid of her reading her autobiography in just a bit. That seems a good way into her. Thanks, bud. Everything good re: you and yours? ** Steve Erickson, Thanks for straining your eye(s) for a moment. I’m very glad to hear it went well. Take care of it for as long as it needs, yeah? And make the most of the storm. ** h (now j), Hi! I’m pleased you like his poems. He’s kind of a poet’s poet, as they say, much admired by his peers and younger poets, but not known much at all to the poetry reading audience at large. Why, … who knows, I guess? I originally found his poetry in the great, super great anthology ‘Anthology of New York Poets’ edited by Ron Padgett and David Shapiro. That book was basically my Bible in the early 70s. It’s where I first discovered so, so many of my favorite poets from Ashbery and Schuyler to Berrigan and Brainard and beyond. I carried that book everywhere. I hope your storm is intense only in the dreamy, atmospheric way. We have another day or maybe two of loveliness here before the temperatures skyrocket into hell again for a few days. ** Okay. Do you know the insane videos of the late internet based artist/genius/weirdo Shaye Saint John? If not, you’ve got a real mindblower ahead of you today, should you so choose. See you tomorrow.