Cady Vishniac is a polite, unassuming, and fairly soft-spoken woman. She doesn’t wear flashy or bright clothing, nor does she have purple hair or a sleeve of tattoos. You might not give her a second glance walking past her on the street, and she certainly isn’t the fist image that comes to mind from the word “busker.” However, she is one of the most notorious living statues in Boston, which has earned her the title of “Boston Statue Lady.”
Cady Vishniac started performing in her early twenties after learning poi and other arts from friends at Burning Man. After learning some tricks from other statues, she decided to try her hand at living statue work. And for the past five years, she has been honing her craft right here in Boston.
Many people think that there is not much to living statue work, but they are quite mistaken. Standing completely still for about ten or twenty seconds is no problem for most people, but how about hours on end? How about in the cold or wind? How about both?! Holding a pose can be trying, but that’s not even the toughest part of the job.
Cady filled me in on some of the not-so-obvious needs a statue must consider before going to work. First off, location is key. Cady herself moved from Baltimore to Boston to be in a city with bigger, bustling crowds. In a city like Boston, there is a lot of opportunity for a busker to draw crowds and there is a large tourist economy. Cady got her start performing in tourist hubs like Faneuil Hall, but has since moved primarily to Provincetown. “You have to love the big crowds,” says Cady, “It really goes without saying.”
One of the toughest parts of statueing (and busking in general), according to Cady, is simply fishing out the wadded up $1 bills people leave in her tip box, flattening, organizing, and counting them so she can take them to the bank. “When that’s basically your paycheck for the whole year,” she said, “you spend a lot of time counting loose change and $1 bills.” One can imagine.
But a statue just isn’t a statue without a good costume. And according to Cady, the costume is key. Cady says that, though you have to start somewhere, she can immediately tell when someone is an amateur by the look of their costume. If you’re standing on a soap box with a funky wig and a small poster-board that says “tips,” you’re not going to draw much attention. The best costumes are made by hand, says Cady.
Living statues are often identifiable because they are painted in all silver, gold, or bronze. Many believe that spray-paint is used to give the costumes their color. Cady says spray paint is a good indicator of a make-shift costume because it chips and flakes. It is better to go for more solid paints because they last longer and show better. Cady went all-out with her witch costume and used a heavy-duty paint mixed with iron. She could barely lift the paint cans when she got them and now believes her witch costume is heavier than she is in large part because of it.
The design of the costume is also important. If you are going to impress your audience, even if your costume is top-notch, it has to be something they can relate to. Archetype costumes like the pirate or the witch, both of which Cady has found success with, work well. Unfortunately, Cady’s Rosie the Riveter costume was not as successful because many of the foreigners who saw it were not familiar with the classic American icon. Frankly, many Americans don’t even know who Rosie the Riveter is. Nevertheless, Cady was happy with the way the costume turned out. And since it is a nice looking costume, people will still show interest in it even if they don’t get who it is emulating.
With Halloween fast approaching, Cady has been making frequent trips to Salem, MA (often known as the Halloween capital of the world). Naturally, in an area like Salem where people take Halloween very seriously, having a good costume is extremely important for a statue. By now, though, Cady is very well known in Salem. She says it is a lot of fun to perform there because people really appreciate the work she put into her costume.
And if you would like to appreciate Cady’s costume as well, you can find her in Salem this week right through Halloween. She’ll be the 10 foot tall bronze witch statue holding a broom. And while you are in Salem, you can enjoy the many Halloween-related events and attractions held there throughout the month. Be sure to pick a good costume!
You Want More?! For more about Cady, the Boston Statue Lady, visit her website. For more about the events and attractions in Salem, visit the Salem city website.
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