After six years, our annual Peeps Diorama contest has become a survey of all that touches and taunts our collective consciousness, an anthology of absurd, artistic triumphs displayed through malleable marshmallow rabbits and chicks.
And for the first time, our judging mirrored American political culture. For 2012, we extended our voting process and increased voter turnout, allowing the entire Washington Post newsroom to vote for a winner.
Before the contest began, we predicted that Occupy D.C. and its spinoffs would dominate submissions, and they did: There were dozens of Occupy-related entries from the 755 entries received. An OccuPeep entry took on an air of inevitability.
But surprises emerged: a homespun miniature homage to the Black Caton 14th Street NW. An inventive joke born of Internet memedom. A massive memorial to Roman antiquity.
— Chat with contest organizers Monday at 11 a.m. ET —
These dark horses wooed with their rhetoric and glitz, each claiming small pockets of rowdy newsroom loyalists.
On Super Tuesday, approximately a third of our newsroom voted. The vote was tight. Exit polls indicated nothing, and a brokered convention looked likely. We almost called in Chris Cillizza to inspect a hanging chad. In the end, the results emulated the lessons of the 2012 Republican primary season: Buzzy cult favorites divided the vote. And the preordained, perfectly executed memorial to the tents of McPherson Square won by a sugary sliver.
As always with this contest, art imitated life, highlighting the farcical fabulousness of human behavior long after submissions stopped pouring in. Read on for profiles of the candidates, um, finalists.
The Winner: OccuP eep D.C.
Cori E. Wright, 38, of Falls Church didn’t think she would have so much trouble painting faux cement. An artist and painter by trade, shading the stones in acrylics seemed easier than staging a dozen OccuPeep D.C. vignettes. “I glued the towel down first for grass and then painted the sidewalk and kept adding multiple layers of glaze,” Wright said. “I wanted the towel and cement to look muddied, and for some reason, getting the color right was a struggle for me.”
It was this realistic, almost obsessive precision that led us to choose OccuPeep D.C. as our winner. Wright left no detail to chance. She modeled the entire project in GIMP, a modeling program like Photoshop. “I figured out a Peep is 3.5 percent the size of an average man,” she said. “I scaled the entire project off that.”
She has entered the contest for the past three years, and “noticed you have to pay attention to tiny details to become a finalist.” Which is why she added the rats, our favorite accessory, which she made out of sculpted clay. “Living with the news all the time, you’d always hear about the rats and the ‘V for Vendetta’ mask, which is why I included them.”
She also took photos of McPherson Square, and then straightened them “because taking photos from the street level alters the perspective” before mounting them on Masonite boards.
Her literal interpretation, which took 20 hours to complete, featured clothed neon bunnies holding banners she replicated from actual signs. News crews, police officers and Gen. McPeepson on a horse, made from clay, were modeled from the scenes she observed. “I don’t necessarily agree with the occupiers, but I agree with the right to occupy,” she said. “So, I didn’t want to be disrespectful. I didn’t want to fill the signs with puns. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t one-sided.”
In the Post newsroom, her sincerity and objectivity reigned.
Finalist: Just Peep’d
Despite all the Duchess-obsessed, Peeple’s Princess entries we received, the best Royal Wedding re-creation came from a mother-daughter duo who didn’t even watch the Royal Wedding. “We weren’t interested enough to get up so early,” said Susan Arnold, 50, of Arlington, who built “Just Peep’d,” with her 17-year-old daughter, Isabel, a senior at Yorktown High School. First-time diorama builders, they wanted to do one last craft project together before Isabel goes off to college.
Creating Kate’s lace Alexander McQueen gown, for which they used tulle and paper, wasn’t terribly challenging. “It’s easier to use than fabric when you’re dressing a Peep.” Instead, they pored over Princess Beatrice and Eugenie’s hats. “They’re so easily recognizable — and easy to exaggerate,” Susan said. “They’re perfect material for Peeps.” And pale pink pipe cleaners worked nicely for Beatrice’s outlandish Philip Treacy topper.
Other renderings, including the bulging eyes of those grumpy flower girls, clothed in napkins and tulle, and Peepa’s cowl-necked gown, made us swoon. Equally impressive were Wills’s and Harry’s stately uniforms, adorned with sashes made from ribbon.