Two months out of the year, artist Brian Kooser toils away in a workshop on Ruby Street with the ghoulish faces of his work staring back at him.
Man-eating wolf-men, ghoulish tiki heads, and golf-playing frogs are just a few of the creations keeping Kooser and his cohorts busy days before their appearance at downtown Ellensburg’s seventh annual Buskers in the Burg Festival.
A puppeteer and designer living and working in Seattle, Kooser began his career as a puppeteer at Central Washington University where he studied puppetry and design.
He’s also designed colossal puppets for the Fremont Arts Council’s annual Solstice Parade and the Nippon Kan Theater’s Frankennochio. Kooser’s sculpted puppets and painted sets use realistic manipulation Bunraku, an ancient Japanese form of puppetry.
From purple rhinos to giant French chefs, Kooser’s eclectic works touch on more than just spectacle. In past years, Kooser’s work has served as vibrant analogies for police brutality and undocumented immigrants in the form of killer robots and childbearing extraterrestrials.
For Kooser, the events of last year’s presidential election left him struggling to keep up with the lunacy of real life.
“There’s always something goofy going on in the world,” Kooser said. “But now everything’s goofy everywhere.”
Compared to the more politically charged puppets of other festivals, Kooser said he works to instill a sense nuance in his creations that leave certain degree of interpretation.
The creations will be part of the Buskers Arts Parade which starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday through the farmers market in downtown Ellensburg.
“There’s so much color this year because last year was a campaign all about the color of people’s skin,” said Karen Scott, a puppet designer who is working with Kooser on the parade.