Creator Series: Robert Shangle's 'Living Statue'

Feb 20, 2014

Each week WJCT highlights one of the creators participating in Jacksonville's One Spark Festival as part of our Creator Series.

Robert Shangle of Sparta, Michigan started designing costumes for Halloween contests 20 years ago. After winning those contests year after year, he longed for a new challenge and his act morphed into the living statue.

Constructing his ensemble with theatrical make-up, epoxies, and primers, the father of three travels all over the world competing. His continual success and appeal to fair-goers has enabled this gig to be a full time business, but the future wasn't clear at the time of his first competition.

“As I went down there my wife’s like ‘just have fun,’ not expecting me to win and I came home with the grand prize,” Shangle laughed. “From there people started asking me to do different events so I decided to make a business out of it.”

This April, at the 2nd Annual One Spark Festival in downtown Jacksonville, Shangle will display a project titled Lights, Camera, Action?! The act consists of him presenting himself as a copper statue of an old-time movie director with his camera.

Robert Shangle as the living statue of a movie director in his new One Spark performance "Lights, Camera, Action?!"
Credit One Spark

Shangle plans to be completely immobile; staying perfectly still without blinking. As people gather he'll break from character and interact with the crowd, commanding them as a director would. When the crowd least expects it he will freeze back into statue form. 

“One of the best things is when one will say ‘I saw him move’ and the other will say ‘no you didn’t he’s a statue’,” said Shangle. “Then the next thing I know they start doubting themselves, ‘oh maybe I didn’t see him.’”

This particular talent wasn’t born overnight. A long distance runner fascinated with the human body, Shangle has trained himself to slow his heart rate down, steady his breathing and can keep his eyes open for 40 minutes straight.

“I tell people, I blink, I just only blink when you blink,” he said.

He talked about an incident where an abrupt wink caused a woman to smear ice cream on her own face.

WATCH: Robert Shangle performs at Mackinaw City Crossings Mall in 2011

Shangle has inspired his youngest son Jasper into the art, and in 2011 they were in the Top Ten of the Art Prize competition in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a project titled Under Construction.

Shangle also represented the United States at the 2009 Living Statue World Championship in the Netherlands.

Shangle will use any money granted at One Spark by going back to the Netherlands to compete as well as train others and further different methods of paint and makeup.

“What I do is unique,” said Shangle. “Everybody can relate to it and it typically brings a smile to their face.”
 

You can follow Scott Harrison on Twitter @Sharrison983.