James Morris joined the circus after entertaining his co-workers and fellow military officers with his extremely stretchy skin caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. He was able to stretch his skin over his face which reportedly resembled an ‘elephant’s trunk’.
Not much is known about Morris’ later life though because as his fame diminished, Morris began to drink and gamble. He also had to get an average job in a barber’s shop to support himself.
Due to years of performing, his skin began to scar and loosen, which his condition made him especially prone to.
This piece was part of a project looking at Circus Oddities
Have a look….
I used plaster and fabric to solidify the wrinkles and strains in the materials. By holding, pulling and manipulating the materials in different ways, I created interesting shapes and shadows.
This piece was to represent how his drinking problem impacted his condition, making it worse.
Normally, alcohol wouldn’t impact on his skin abnormally but due to him linking his performing to his habit, they are linked, contributing with the permanent scarring.
You can see the weight of the liquid pulling against the arm and the material. Th physical weight of the suit would represent the entrapment of the circumstance.
This was based on the idea of needing to reach for the habit and pulling at the material created more distorted shapes, the thicker the material.
An interesting large scale installation linking to James Morris would be to incorporate the building of a barbers or pub with this stretched out bottle moving through the walls.
A description of people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, is that their skin can often feel velvety, and so I would be intrigued to use a material like Cor-Ten Steel, which has this texture when oxidises. The colour of the outer layer also changes, representing the marking on Morris’ skin.
Alongside this, a design for an advertising sign for, e.g.. a barbers shop with incorporate the stretched skin. Keeping the sign plain would be bold, with information on the back of the piece. To incorporate the barber’s shop I would possible use a furrier fabric or shape the edges using cutting skills.