Enter the dolls
In 2004, when I first applied to do my MVPA at CSU Wagga Wagga , I put for a proposal for my intended area of research., as I re read that paper now I cannot helped but be a little astonished at how well I did actually adhere to the original concept. It has varied a little of course because if it had not grown and matured and morphed over the years I have been working on it I would have considered the work, invalid.
I intended in that proposal to launch an investigation into personal relationships between myself and important figures in my life to date I proposed to make a series of textile lengths that were to be complimented by highly embellished hand constructed textile boxes. I intended to create a collection of fabrics and boxes that were to contain imagery of memories and stories of associates, important and influential in my life. I wanted to extract emotional responses in my art audience. I have throughout my career in art making have noticed that works can strike different chords with different people colours, imagery, composition, that are created by the artist can mean different things to the viewer. I believe that if the artist nurtures the personal and human element in their work it encourages the viewer to embellish the artist’s original concept and apply their own experiences, memories and emotions, thus layering their own story into the concept. These audience overlays can range from analytical cognition to unconscious intuitive understanding.
I intended to use symbolism, images that represent a personal symbol for each person that I portrayed in my investigation.
As I was beginning to embark on this process of determining central figures in my life, the most central of all, passed away. My mother, thus I began a process of incorporating a grieving process and an investigation of interpersonal relationships between a mother and daughter into my art work.
Many years ago in a dark and dingy second hand store in Beauforte Street in Perth Western Australia I cam across a basket of small yellow oval shaped boxes. This basket was located in the store under a stack of chairs, piled so high it almost reached the ceiling. The boxes were small fitted snugly into the palm of my hand and were decorated with simple brush stroke designs, swirls of red and blue. Opening a box I found a set of six tiny dolls constructed from wire and wrapped with cloth threads and fabric scraps, they were minute, very simple and intricately beautiful. Contained with the dolls was a tiny scrap of paper, with charming instructions; “Before, going to bed, tell one worry to each doll, then place them beneath your pillow. Whilst you sleep, the dolls will take your worries away!"
I have since found that these dolls are the result of a Guatemalan legend, they are tiny, hand-crafted dolls The dolls are clothed in traditional Mayan costumes and stand one half to one inch tall
Guatemalan artisans bind pieces of wood together or twist together short lengths of wire to create a frame and fashion a torso, legs, arms, and head. By winding cloth and yarn around the frame, the artisans give the doll shape. They use scraps of traditional woven fabric to make the doll costumes and wind more yarn to create the head, hair, feet and hands. Sometimes, they add a tiny woven basket or other traditional implements. Finally, they place a set of 6-8 dolls in tiny wooden boxes or cloth pouches for sale.
The indigenous people from the Highlands in
These little dolls so intrigued me I bought a few sets and gave them to several members of my family. My mother adored hers and used them constantly.
When my sisters and I cleared my mothers home after her death we found a pile of envelopes in the bottom of her dressing table addressed to each of us. Inside these were some item she wished us to have on her death and a small personal message for the recipient. Mine contained my mothers much loved trouble dolls and a message written on the outside of the envelope;
“Dear Julie-Ann I have not the time to post these, I always thought there were seven dolls, but there are only six , one for each member of our family. Maybe the 7th is the baby I aborted. Be Happy love Mum”
Thus Began my investigation into the personal life experiences and relationships my mother entrusted to my life and the dolls became my symbol for her, my family, myself and my experiences in life.
Geri Olson in her paper; “Dolls, Protection Healing Power and Play”…1988, describes that dolls in their earliest form were works of art that were used in ritual and ceremony, she states that in both art and ritual the unseen world is made visible and is acknowledged by the creator and the audience, this world is entered and experienced within the artistic expression, through all of our senses, movement, sound, emotion, shaping and embellishing an object to make it “special”
My mother made her dolls special by attributing family characteristics to each doll and asking to have individual troubles for each family member deal with through the dolls,
I then developed this idea by “reinventing “, the dolls through my drawings to fit this profile,
In the very first Charcoal I created in this series, it is not entirely evident that I redesigned the usual configuration of three male dolls to three female that is usually represented in the group of six dolls. However as there are four females and two males in our original family this is how I have depicted group drawings of the dolls In individual drawings or less than full groups I have usually depicted the dolls as female as it is the female relationships in my life I have explored the most and the mother, daughter relationship and the importance of nurturing within those relationships