Deborah Bouchette

Like a Bird of Phoenix

Kerstin Jakobsson

In Deborah Bouchette's letter below, you can read her story of how the embalming of the doll Philomene turned out to become a disaster of hellish proportions. The outcome made Deborah so upset she couldn't even send Philomene back to me as expected, for a long time.

Her letter also gives a bigger picture. An artist wished to create eternal life and was confronted by the dark side of creation, destruction. It also pointed out a question. Do we choose to see death and destruction as the end of everything, or the beginning of something new?

In the art project Runaway Explorers, ten little dolls were sent out to experience the world. To complete their chains of life, they also needed to be killed and sent back to their original creator in Sweden.

In the end, when Philomene was sent to Sweden she also could fulfill her destiny and like a bird of Phoenix, she went through her last transformation. She, like the other dolls had started as an unappreciated textile on a flee market, went out into the world to become a little friend of an artist, and in the end, was sent as a loved lifeform of art, back to her creator. As most real lives, she got experiences of both joy and brutality. The remains of Philomene shows this very clear, she is even beheaded.

Today, photographed with her head mounted on a trophy plate and the remains of her body in a plastic box, I think Philomene left hell back in Alaska and has started on something new. With her little smile on her face, I think she looks like a saint.

So if Philomene has raised into heaven, who knows what will happen now?
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Philomene's remains

Deborah Bouchette, 2012
In June, the U.S. goverment's TSA refused to let the decomposing corpse of Philomene travel on the airlines with us on our trip home from Alaska.

We had to have her body embalmed first. Se we sent it to a man in Fairbanks, Alaska, but evidently we picked a taxidermist rather than an embalmer. So the man treated poor Philomene like a hunting trophy and sent us her head, mounted, as you can see.

Well, I was beside myself with grief! I called him and insisted he send whatever else he had of poor Philomene to me. He was very confused, and it took him a while to sort through remains of many animals to find Philomene's stuffings. Then he lad to salt the gruesome matter and wait until it was entirely dry and preserved, and he finally shipped it to us, again - as you can see. He could not identify some of the flesh he had scraped from her skin, since it looked like any other flesh in his trash pile. What we got back, then, is just that flesh tha clung to her little skeleton.

This morbid display reminds med of the terrible beauty of the ancient mummies they have found in South America, where the body was lid to rest with its arms clasped around its folded legs.

For a long time I could not figure out what to do! I was terrified to send you poor Philomene in such a state! She sat in my studio, a constant reminder of the failure I was as her caretaker. Her presence denied me the ability to create anything new. I finally decided I had to send her to you just to free myself.

Philomene really liked the crazy drawing machine I built. And you Will see in the photos how she had really enjoyed her Alaska trip, and it was ended so suddenly, so tragically.
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Photos from Philomene's journey to the artist in residence at Denali Mountain in Alaska.

Left, At the North Pole

Down left, At the Alaska Pipeline,

Down right, At the Alaska Pipeline

Philomene visiting Santa land where the Real Santa lives together with his raindeers. Philomene was missing her homeland, Sweden.

The artist in residence cabin at Denali. There are a lot of bears here....

Walking up the Denali mountain

Using the Outhouse in Alaska

Helping out assembling the Chaucer-dx

Riding Chaucer in the car

Having a good time, also taking naps and getting suntanned. Who could know disaster was so close...

Taking a dip and Oh NO - Watch OUT!
So flat a doll can be by a car!

The murderer who hates dolls, even smiling after the deed.

The sunburned and lifeless body of Philomene

Top pictures. Caking care of the body.
Top right. Philomene on a stretcher.
Right. Preparing the body.
Pictures below. Drying the body.

What a mess.

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Artist Deborah Bouchette

After a decades-long detour in high tech, Deborah Bouchette returned to the arts in the late 90’s and now is painting, drawing, and playing in conceptual space.  Her works are abstract and deal with all sorts of chaos, energies, maps, and visual density.  She has shown internationally.  Deborah is married to Bill "Prune" Wickart.  They live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, U.S.A.

Press+Release. At Dawn the Birds Nearly Blacken the Sky, ink and pigment on panel

Echogram, oil on canvas

Echo of Earth, oil on linen.jpg

Echo of Air, oil on linen.jpg

Broadcast of Summer, oil on canvas.jpg
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Ballroom misbehavin'

Philomene went with Prune and me to the Austro-American Society Ball
Well, Philomene looked pretty nice when she let me cut off her dreadlocks.  I made her a dress and headpiece (she was worried about having no hair) and Prune gave her a rose petal for a corsage.
She was fairly well behaved until we weren't looking...then she made good friends with the wine bottle...TOO friendly...

Philomene came to the ball

Admired the pretty girls dancing

Took her place at the table

Got friendly with the bottle

Got TOO friendly with the bottle

Sleeping it off
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We found Philomene in Seattle!!!!!

We got lucky and found Philomene at the Seattle
 Art Museum. As we were entering the museum,
we glanced up, and couldn't believe she was
sitting on the lamppost, in the company of a
50-year-old man who should be ashamed of
himself! Can you see her? She has a red scarf

The museum must have been a very scarey 
place for her. This piece would give anyone

Top photo.
She had to sleep in this case filled with head-
less dolls. Poor thing.

Right photo,
We stopped for lunch in the cafe, and our
waitress was quite the floozy.

Left photo.
Later we spotted that old man with the floozy,
and poor Philomene was heartbroken.

Top photo.
We tried to make her feel better by going to
the famous Pike St. Market, where lots of
people were shopping.

Left photo.
The evening was beautiful, and this

view of the Christmas tree atop the Space
Needle was stunning.

Photo down.
But poor Philomene was exhausted, and she fell
asleep, safe at last, under the tree

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Philomene kidnapped!

I am ashamed to admit that my doll, Philomene, has been kidnapped.

I just received a copy of a message purportedly sent by her...she said she was able to email it to you using her captor's email.  Did you get it?  It had no text, just attachments.  One was like a sign, hand-lettered, asking for help.

Anyway, I have heard that she might be stuck in a museum in Seattle, Washington, so I am driving up there tomorrow to hunt for her.

I am guessing she did something un-towards out of sheer frustration from my lack of nurturing, and that's what put her in the position of being kidnapped.  I haven't received any ransom note, just the one email from some weird account called ""

Meanwhile, here are the earlier pictures I took of her.  I will take them along to show to the museum security guards.

Left, Delivery seemed to be quick and painless
from the smile on her birth-mother's face.

Top right, She had no trouble adapting to the
apartment I shared with Gretha in Sweden,
and used most of her time learning computer

After surviving a day in my suitcase, she was
relaxed and calm in the hotel in Toulouse,

Upon arrival at my residency in France, she
was immediately adopted by the 11-year-old
in charge, Aloise McNorton, who named my
doll "Philomene," and taught her how to dance
proper French ballet.

One of the happy times was on a hike led by
Aloise through the French countryside and
past old stone dwellings.

Aloise determined that Philomene needed
French cosmetic surgery, and so Philomene
underwent a facelift.  I suppose it's quite a
French tradition:  women obsessed with

Top, After the nose-job, Aloise demanded that 
Philomene receive a proper face.  Times seem-
ed rather good, but Philomene's expression
portends the gloom and doom that was to settle
over the residency in France.

Right, Philomene stood on the fireplace mantle for
about six weeks, listening to and observing the
goings-on in that residency.  She took a neutral
position--I wish she'd have helped me out, but
I suppose my lack of nurture didn't give her any
reason to step in.  As conditions went from bad to
worse, Aloise also lost her love for Philomene and
stopped visiting her.

We escaped France by the skin of our teeth, and
when I opened my suitcase in Oregon, I thought for
a moment that Philomene had died from suffocation.  
But she took a huge gasp of air and got used to her
new surroundings.  Ha!  I just noticed--she has taken
a pair of my earrings and put them on!!!  Oh well, I
suppose it's small recompense for having to ride
in the cargo hold.

 I'm not so sure that I should have let Philomene
get all those computer skills while she was in
Sweden.  I caught her memorizing my pass-
words. I've had to blank them out on this photo.

Left, And I put her in "time-out."  Here is she sitting 
in a huff against one of my paintings.

And that's the last picture I have of her.  I suppose she got on the Internet at night when I wasn't looking.  She probably fell in love with some rogue who seduced her into running away with him.  I hope to get more answers when I get to Seattle.

love, deb
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The French Connection

Deb chose a elegant tablecloth made to decorate a coffetable for almost 100 years ago. The old now have rust staines, a bit like coffee though. This doll was very exited to follow Deb, a world explorer with several trips planned. First the went to France. Could ever the woman that once made the embroideries, imagine such a travel for her self 100 years ago?

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