Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Doll Stories, updating an older series

 (Above:  Doll Stories IX.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I finished this new series before leaving for my teaching gig outside Washington, DC but didn't have time to blog them.  They are "new work" but they are also "old work".  I took the photos in May 2012 while visiting Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Click HERE for the blog post about this amazing trip.) I printed, matted, and framed thirty-five images in order to hang them that summer in Galesburg, Illinois ... in the provided studio space for an art residency where I made The Canopy.

(Above:  All thirty-five images from 2012.)

Back in 2012, I saw the dolls as compliments to The Canopy.  They represented the preciousness of a feminine childhood, a concept largely manufactured by an adult society which is all wrapped up in stereotypical gender roles, adult nostalgia, and a parent's vision for an archetype child.  They went hand-in-hand with the impossible and patriarchal ideal of "Happily Ever After".  They were the things of fairy tales.  I saw these pristine, antique dolls as rather creepy ... supposedly beloved but rarely played with ... staring blankly out of porcelain heads.  (It probably wouldn't surprise anyone that I didn't have a favorite doll baby as a little girl!)

(Above: Doll Stories VIII.)

By the autumn of 2012, the entire series was shipped to Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona to be part of the annual Day of the Dead celebration.  On the back of each framed piece was a label reading:

“My name is Talky Tina and you’ll be sorry!”
In November 1963 the popular television show, The Twilight Zone, aired "Living Doll", an episode in which a wind-up, talking doll was featured and eventually caused the death of the overbearing father.  Since then, people exposed to this scary program have rarely seen dolls as innocent play toys but as a "thing that goes bump in the night". 
“Living Doll” was episode 126.  It aired on November 1, 1963 during season five.  It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, written by  Jerry Sohl (credited to Charles Beaumont), and included an original score by Bernard Herrmann.  The stars included: Telly Savalas as Erich Streator; Mary LaRoche as Annabelle Streator; Tracy Stratford as Christie Streator; and June Foray’s voice for Talky Tina. 

(Above: Doll Stories III.)

The "Talky Tina" labels are still on the reverse of these "updated"  pieces but the second label has been replaced.  The second label included the original title (simply ... Doll I through XXXV) with an inventory number.

(Above: Doll Stories XIV.)

 I made a notation in my inventory book for each of these pieces ... writing "REMOVED from inventory".  I also erased the date penciled on each mat ... switching 2012 to 2018.  Each of these pieces now has a new name, new inventory number, and a new label.

(Above: Doll Stories XIII.)

I never thought I would do anything like this.  In fact, I remember thinking to myself, "Why would an artist change an old piece?  Why would a painter paint over an old canvas?  Why would a quilter cut up an old piece?  Why would a photographer return to an old negative? Wouldn't it be just as easy to start from scratch?

(Above: Doll Stories IV.)

Even in 2012, I never thought I would run out of space for art storage.  I never thought I'd have the amount of artwork just "sitting around collecting dust".  I also never thought about returning to old concepts and naturally wanting to "go further" with an idea, "do it differently", or "change the original". 

(Above: Doll Stories VII.)

I distinctly remember walking through the Dada show at the National Gallery of Art and shaking my head at the many labels listing the works with multiple dates ... explaining that "old broadsides" were used for "new paintings" and that many 3D assemblages were taken apart for gears to go in a newer device.  I thought, "These poor, poor artists.  They didn't have enough money or respect.  I wonder what would have been saved if they didn't have to scavenge through their own collection for materials."

(Above: Doll Stories I.)

While it might be true that many artists, especially those working on the cultural fringe and with little resource, did scavenge through their work for materials ... well ... it also might be true that many artists were just running out of storage.  Perhaps they were like me now ... looking at too many pieces that are several years old, without a permanent home, and seemingly begging to have another chance at being something NEW!

(Above: Doll Stories V.)

I didn't hesitate for a moment about reworking these photographs.  It seemed like the perfect thing to do.  It felt like taking the original concept and making it more obvious and better!

(Above: Doll Stories VI.)

I don't know for sure if any or all of these pieces will end up in the spring exhibition called Alternative Storytellers, but that's my hope.

(Above: Doll Stories II.)

Each piece is my original photograph, matted to 16" x 20" ... now a mixed media creation as each includes suggested narratives from a doll's point of view.  The letters are mostly clipped from vintage ephemera. 

(Above: Doll Stories X.)

(Above: Doll Stories XI.)

(Above: Doll Stories XII.)

1 comment:

Ann Scott said...

This post is so interesting and those dolls are creepy (I've always felt that way but you really reminded me of that!). I have often wondered where prolific artists such as yourself, store there work when/if not on exhibit. I rarely work on series anymore because of the storage issue and I have thought about reworking art quilts that have been taking up space and going no-where. I hope these pieces travel where you want them to for others to see and contemplate.