“A doll is one of the most intimate expressions possible of the human spirit….a commentary on human society, the little world of dolldom reflecting the great, for everything that happens in the great world is reflected in the little. A dollographer, when he studies a doll, studies also people, a social scene; and sometimes there may be only a doll to tell the story.” Marguerite Young
The American novelist who scripted this quote was a doll collector and creative writing instructor. One of her students, Edward Swift, grew up around rag dolls lovingly made by his grandmother, but he confesses “they were something mysterious, not cute or precious.” His work in this exhibition, bundled paper-mache creatures that frolic, haunt, twist and turn, hint at the story of his relationship with those childhood dolls. Swift sees them as people bewildered by the complexities of life, yet with a sense of humor about their journey. Some seem to be waving a flag, others appear to sing; all are thought-provoking.
Multidisciplinary and experimental artist Gabriela Buenrostro Solórzano, known in San Miguel as Gaby Black, employs recycled materials such as discarded toys, doll parts and furniture. Embellished and swaddled with yarn, baubles and beads, her hybrid babies are highly textured and colorful. Inspired by natural and organic forms, Black’s work is infused with a sense of the unknown, unexpected and unexplained.
A member of Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers, Ellen Benson says “I look at a bottlecap on the street and see a little hat; my old paintbrushes look like legs.” Her doll people incorporate plastic bags, recycled paper, old doll clothes, toys and other found objects. A natural born storyteller, she sees cigar boxes as houses in which to create a narrative. Benson has agoal of creating 1000 figures; she’s made about 600 so far.
When asked “why dolls?’, Carole Clement proclaims “because I can!” Her dolls, as in her other art, tell her what they want. Some require lengthy layering while others want to be kissed fast and furious. Her work is an attempt to uncover, tame and embrace the spirit of those dolls with mindfulness and nonattachment. Like a midwife, she’s there to listen, massage, or get out of the way so that their mystery can unfold.
As for myself, I'm back to repurposing Barbie dolls. She’s a blank canvas, open to endless possibilities, ready for visual messages different from the ones given to the children who collect her and dress her up. Barbie has grown up somewhat since she was invented, but the perfection and proportions still convey an impossible ideal. My dolls, like my other work, play in the realm of social, political and commentary.
All the dolls in this exhibition will be for sale, and the show continues through January 9, 2018. La Huipilista Artspace is participating in Guadalup/Arte December Art Crawl, a new event I organized with some artist neighbors. All of us live and work in Guadalupe, and all will have different hours that day.
Participating venues will provide maps of locations and times of events.