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.  

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