Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Musings on Art Dolls & Figurative Sculpture

Each member of our doll making collective has agreed to do a post that in one way or another addresses the question of "What is an art doll?"  Art dolls are a form of figurative sculpture, but I don't think the terms "art doll" and "figurative sculpture" are synonymous.  As I've tried to think through the distinction between the terms, I've considered and rejected  concepts such as scale, quality of engagement and impetus to create the figure.  In the end I think the best distinction between art doll and figurative sculpture is that they are grounded in different traditions.

Art dolls have emerged from the centuries old tradition of children engaging with lovingly hand crafted (or industrially manufactured) dolls for purposes of play, companionship and emotional support.   When I think about the art dolls that I make, I have to acknowledge that some of my decision making is driven by the same purposes that children pursue.   Doll making is an exploration that has parallels to children's play.  But as an adult artist, I also connect to the people who made the dolls for the children.  Dolls are simply fun to make and dolls are a gift to others.  There is a satisfaction in that.

Figurative sculpture is also a centuries old tradition.  It is a fine arts tradition.  Figurative sculpture has a more serious history than doll making because the content of these depictions of the human form address all the big questions about life.  It is, perhaps, a higher or more subtle level of exploration for both the artist and the people who engage with these figurative sculptures.   I know that on the occasions when I truly connect with figurative sculpture my thinking and perceptions are somehow changed by the experience.  I feel that at this time, I am more of a consumer of figurative sculpture than a creator of it.

The artist who has challenged my thinking most recently with her figurative sculpture is Lesley Dill.  Her work is accessible to me because her imagery is inclusive of classic doll forms.  I am trying to understand when she decides to include heads and hands.  These seem like important decisions that I would like to understand.  I also like how she creates context that is layered with meaning but it is difficult for me to explore these meanings because I can only access her work through the internet.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Defining the Doll

The Jane Street Doll Collective has been meeting almost weekly for a good while now.  Often, instead of actually creating, Emily, Chris and I simply discuss art, dolls, the creative process and so on. And, if you are an art doll artist, sooner or later, the question will come up: "What is a doll?" There are as many answers and opinions on that subject as there are dolls and artists themselves. Dolls are many things to me beyond being toys.  Dolls, like any art form, do not have to be pretty or nice nor do they always make you feel good. After all, who hasn't looked at porcelain doll on the shelf in the local antique mart, and just plain got creeped out by those blank, staring faces?!
As works of art, I use them to make a social statements, and to express the human condition, either my own or that of some segment of society. Dolls also provide an outlet for all the imaginary, playful creatures that dance through my head to come to life. They become tools for self transformation and self understanding. My inner child is continually amused and my creative soul is well fed by exploring "the doll".