Saturday, March 04, 2006
Dolls-few little girls grow up without owning a
doll, or many. My artistic life encompasses a fascination with dolls as subject matter. I don't understand it, as I am fascinated with the process and outcome of the art, rather than the beginning or any relating in the present to the doll.
This has led to some thinking about dolls and what do they mean to us as we grow up?
My dolls were never the baby-doll kind. I was not into caretaking (at that time), but into dreaming of being a beautiful creature like my dolls. The dolls became sort of an "other" for me, an alter-ego sort of persona that allowed me adventures that went far beyond my house and yard.
Often the Sahara called, or Hollywood, or perhaps the distant Himalayas, or perhaps India.
My heart's desire was to own a Shirley Temple doll. My mother thought they were ugly. There began one of the first family system "triangles" that I remember. Me, my mother, and, of course, "the right doll." My mother won, and instead of the dark haired, dark-eyed Shirley Temple doll who looked like me, I received a tall blonde, blue-eyed ballerina on pointed toes for Christmas. My little sister was blonde, now I wonder about the meaning behind that doll-gift, and remember all the struggles of self-differentiation as I grew up. A light bulb comes on, and I think of the meaning of dolls as both an extension of myself and, at the same time, a means of self-differentiation. Anyway, I recovered easily enough and moved on to the Stage and beyond, magically floating off the stage to become a dancer on the backs of the seats in theatres.
In the past few years, I have regathered my old dolls and we meet across the drawing board. Some critics find the art disturbing, not many can say "I love it!" Yet, a few find a disturbing emotional connection to the art. And that's what art is about - that emotional connection.
My granddaughter collects dolls. Her favorites are American Girl dolls. They are lovely. She has dolls that look like her, and dolls that look like other little girls in faraway lands. Sometimes, though, in the night they frighten her. I think the next time I see my granddaughter we will have a long talk about what her dolls really mean to her.