RALEIGH — The new Kings Barcade in downtown Raleigh is a great space for live music, but one of the coolest things about it has nothing to do with the stage. It's an art installation of Statler and Waldorf, the cranky old hecklers from "The Muppet Show."
It's such a good re-creation that it looks like a piece of authorized merchandise you'd order from a catalog. It's not, but it is the next best thing.
The installation is the work of local artist Kristin Matwiczyk, who conjured it using "foam, fleece, wire and magic" - and also a little inside information. Matwiczyk drew on her experience of having once worked in a Muppet factory in Nashville (yes, there is such a thing).
"Most of the Muppet factories are in California, but there's one in Tennessee called Animax Designs," says Matwiczyk, who waits tables at Capital Club 16 restaurant a few doors over from Kings. "All the Muppets get redone and fixed up every year - the felt gets replaced, Big Bird is re-feathered. So I saw their infrastructure, what they looked like without the fleece and fabric, and how the skeletons were made with wire."
Matwiczyk offered to do a piece of art for the new Kings, and the club's management proposed Statler and Waldorf. Once Matwiczyk rounded up all the materials, it took about six weeks to complete. She used a turkey carver to fashion the heads out of furniture-stuffing foam, and the figures are wearing real clothes from a thrift store.
For a male beauty pageant, Matwiczyk dressed Waldorf in drag with a dress and wig. And when a garage-punk band played Kings, she changed Waldorf's thumbs-up to a devil-horns hand gesture.
"Mostly I just move Waldorf," she says. "I leave Statler alone with his thumb down."