Long-time readers of my blog know that the meanings of my artwork evolve during the time in which I’m actively creating it. I may have an idea of where a piece might be going, but try hard not to become too attached to a specific theme or direction. The four box dolls that I’ve been working on started out as one thing in my mind. Then they decided that they were going to go off in a completely different direction. Not wanting to force myself on them, I let the art direct me creatively.
I generally work in even-numbered groups while creating my art. There isn’t any other reason than, it feels right to me. A group of four dolls, that will be contained in frames/boxes with hang tabs-like looking elements, is what I call a set. All four items belong to the singular artistic expression. They belong together.
My initial idea was to have the dolls contained within the frames/boxes (box frames?) each represent a type of doll that I would have wanted to purchase when I was a child. The types of dolls that were sold like this when I was a child didn’t appeal to me. Barbie dolls didn’t fit into how I played with or created by own dolls. Nowadays, I see so many different types of small dolls in stores that I would have saved my money to purchase. As a creative maker, it seemed obvious to fuse what I wanted and didn’t have, with what I could create myself now.
Where we parted ways:
In retrospect, I suppose it was silly of me to attempt this. Evidently, my subconscious thought the same thing. As I continued to work on the four box dolls, none of the ideas I came up with seemed correct. “Oh! I’ll make this one a scientist!” Why?! I never wanted to be a scientist. Or, “I could make this one an astronaut!” Again. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to be an astronaut. Did I want to fly the Millennium Falcon? Damn skippy I did!
Then I thought about perhaps using the dolls to show different stages. You know? Like maiden, matron and crone? Something akin to that. But that didn’t fit, or feel right either. The four dolls kept staring at me and trying to tell me what they wanted to be, but I wasn’t listening. I liked the idea of showing different stages, or pages…perhaps chapters of myself. But I just wasn’t sure how to do that. Or even why I would want to do that.
Then I figured it out.
What I was trying to say:
We never remain completely the same over the entirety of our lives. Individuals are continually learning, growing and changing. There are times and places within out lives where we were really “into” something. We go overboard reading a specific author, or listening to a musician. Perhaps we cannot get enough of learning about a time in history, or a type of research in science, or going to the theatre. Most of the time, these hobbies and interests peak and fade. Sometimes we just lose interest. Perhaps a new interest has been sparked for us somewhere else.
There are times in which our interests can be folded into our individual life goals. A hobby can become a career. Or a passion about a subject can drive a person to choose a major for study at university that will aid them in future employment.
When the interests that I had as a much younger person met the real world, changes to how I pursued each of them changed. The interests and aptitudes evolved to fit my own talents and abilities, as well as what I was willing to do to attain them. My mathematics were never going to be good enough for me to be a veterinarian. It was a bad fit. Animals are a great love of mine, but being a vet wasn’t ever going to be a good fit for me as a career. For one, I can’t deal with the incredible sadness that comes with the death of an animal.
What the four box dolls could be changed as I thought about who I was in my early life. How I chose to pursue my passions and further my knowledge. Each of these dolls represents a distinct part of me, in that, they are tiny snapshots of who I was when I was five, or ten, or fifteen, and 20-ish. The passions, interests, hopes, dreams, and goals that I had when I was so much younger haven’t left me. They have merely been folded into my personal identity. They are who I have become.
One of four:
There is one of the group of four box dolls that has had staying power for me. It’s become a cornerstone of my personal and professional identity. Through every imagined future career or profession, art was always there. Being an artist is something that has never, ever left me. It’s my personal boon and bane. The life preserver that sometimes confuses the holy hell out of me. Even when my professional art career isn’t going as well as I had hoped, my passion for it has never dimmed.
However, there has been a change in how I see myself as an artist, and how I ‘thought’ being an artist would be in real life. Part of that has to do mainly with the fact that I’ve not yet fully discovered the place in which I and my artwork fit within the larger world conversation of art. Artist? Crafter? Artisan? (As I typed that, I actually rolled my eyes.) I feel as though I will always struggle with this question. It’s just nagging imposter syndrome. And it’s terrifically annoying.
Long story longer:
Each of the four dolls in this set will represent different aspects of who I was when I was a certain age. I have chosen the descriptor of ‘aspect’ as it relates better to the overall concept of personal identity that seems to permeate every piece of artwork that I create. The interests and aspirations of these former me’s are still very much alive within me. Each adding their own acquired knowledge and expertise to my work as an artist.
Names are hard:
I struggle at times to give titles to my artwork. The dolls seem to be easy to name by comparison. As of right now, I’ve been calling this set “The Four Box Dolls” which sounds rather lame if you ask me. Perhaps a better and more apt name will come to me after the entire piece is finished.
So, now what?
As always, I need to get back to work. I have three different pieces of artwork in process. This is way too many if you ask me. I feel stretched thin mentally speaking. There are other pieces that I want to start work on, but will hold off on that until I have the three pieces directly in front of me finished. If there were only more hours in a day. (Sigh.)
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.