Roxanne DuBois

Wings Over Wyoming

Senior Project December 2013


In the Fall of 1998 Matthew Shepard was severely beaten while tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere and then left for dead. His death caused uproar among the Laramie Wyoming community, where it took place, and around the world. Following the event, controversy surrounded the small town of Laramie, where in the years to come there would be much debate about what happened to Matthew and what should be done to the boys that did this to him. Among the interviews that took place in Laramie were those of the members of the theatre group that called themselves the Tectonic Theatre Project. They had set out to create a play based on what had happened to Matthew to raise awareness for this extremely common occurrence that all too often goes unnoticed. The people that were interviewed had all different opinions about what happened, some blamed Matthew for what happened to him, that his sinful lifestyle brought it upon him. Others were angry that something like this could happen in a close nit town like Laramie. One of the individuals that was angry was Romaine Patterson, a close friend of Matthew. In her interviews she recalls the anti-gay protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church at the trial of both of the boys who murdered Matthew, they were there condemning Matthew for his ungodly choice in lifestyle. As you can imagine it was quite upsetting to the family to see this, so Patterson gathered a group of friends of Matthew and fellow activists and organized something they called “Angel Action.”

According to her interview this group, all dressed as angels with huge wings, gathered right in front of the Westboro Baptist Church protesters and shielded their hateful slurs from reaching the family and friends that had gathered at the courthouse in support of Matthew. The wings that I have created are meant to represent the ones worn by the activists those fateful days in Laramie. My career goal as an artist is to create prop pieces to be used in theatre or film. These wings will be used in the upcoming performance of The Laramie Project that will be showing here at Florida Gulf Coast University in the Spring 2014 semester. The umbrellas seen hanging overhead are used in a scene from the play that takes place during Matthew’s funeral. I thought that the use of lace would create dramatic lighting and add a more somber look to the scene and my installation. I have been working closely with my client, Michelle Hayford the director of the Laramie Project, in order to achieve her desired product for these wings and umbrellas. Through several meetings we were able to make concise, mutual decisions on all aspects of my project.

I had initially planned on making traditional wings with real feathers, but after much research and experimentation I found that that wouldn’t be very interesting or unique. While doing research on other artist’s versions of wings I found several that were making them out of paper, this inspired my final decision to create paper wings. The feathers are cut out of thick cardstock and poster board then spray painted the different colors, each feather is cut out individually and every single one is unique. The feathers were then glued to cardboard pieces in layers in order to achieve depth. Between two of the central cardboard pieces is a space that has been cut out so that the supporting structure can slide in and attach to the wall and eventually a harness to be worn by the actors in the upcoming performances. The umbrellas were stripped of their colorful fabric and replaced by thick black lace. I hung them from the ceiling in a cascading formation in order to dilute the gallery light and create a more dramatic experience for my installation.

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