Inside a Doll's House - Act 3

December 12, 2023
Inside a Doll's House - Act 3

As the exhibition This is Not a Doll's House continues in our North Miami space, we wanted to give the oppurtunity to shed some light on the finer details you might have missed out on with each artist's work. Their inspirations, the analysis of the original Ibsen play, and their reactions to an ever-changing modern society norm all have major influences on their art, and that gives us great reasoning to prod their minds for the real reasons behind the Doll's House.


This is part three of our interview series, if you'd like to go back to read the answers some of the artists gave in part one, CLICK HERE.

Please tell us how you think the theme of the exhibition reflects the current position of women in our society?
Mary Tooley Parker: With the rise of social media, where everyone carefully poses and presents their best selves to the camera and the world, and where those that feel less-than-perfect can only observe and compare, the objectification of women has reached a global and dangerous level.
Hou Guan Ting: As the exhibition's title suggests, this is not just a doll but a reflection of a contemporary societal phenomenon. The exhibition introduces a topic for us to discuss, the relationship between dolls and women, their voices, and their status. 
Adriana Carvalho: Henrik Ibsen, The Doll House, is a timeless classic! He projects symbols of every day reality that transport time and space.
Karina Hoviaghman: The exhibition reflects both the oppression that women have experienced throughout history, and many still endure in the 21st century, as well as the liberation and empowerment that we are gradually achieving.
Lydia Viscardi: Women continue to make strides, but societal change seems to move at a glacial pace. I have seen a lot of change in my lifetime since the early days of feminism but there are still many obstacles for women like unequal pay for example and the serious regressive laws surrounding abortion. The theme of the show brings in to view a pervasive attitude towards women, one that focuses on their appearance before anything else. And when women are seen as strong, intelligent and powerful, they are often regarded as unfeminine.
In today’s world, what role do you think dolls play? Has that role changed at all in your lifetime?
MTP: Yes, it has changed a lot. When I was a child, sexual orientation determined all the toys we played with.
HGT: I believe that in the modern world, despite technological advancements, many things have been replaced by machines. However, the unique language of dolls, their soft touch, and exclusive companionship remain irreplaceable and unique even in the modern age. 
AC: In these days dolls are called ’Sugar babies’… women in a role of economical submission, but not fragility. 
KH: Today, fortunately, dolls have changed a lot. There are dolls of all colors and shapes. I think we shouldn't demonize Barbie; just like in life, there should be variety. I grew up with my brother and played more with toy cars than dolls. However, I always liked to see them. My sister had one with a porcelain face, a beauty. Dolls, for me, reflect a tenderness that I cannot resist. And, fortunately, today a boy can play with dolls too!!
LV: I think dolls continue to play a role in imaginative play and in helping to form identity. However, too often dolls come with a manufacturer’s agenda, one that is very career oriented, or gender and age specific. This isn’t new but like so many commodities today, there are a gazillion choices and often so specific, they are very limiting. Children are so inventive and if boys and girls are given dolls that are more of a blank slate, it frees them to explore and make sense of their world through their own incredible imaginations.

We have your individual statements, but now that you have seen images of the installed exhibition, what purpose do you think all of the dolls serve?
MTP: They serve as poignant representations of the many ways women are and have been objectified and subdued. It is almost overwhelming.
HGT: In this exhibition, many artworks are suspended in the air, visually overlapping with others. Each artwork represents an individual issue, and although they exist independently, they also influence each other.
AC: A vision of contemporary women shouting inner context in the XXl century. 
KH: I believe that the dolls in this exhibition reflect the suffering of not being able to break free from a place where society and history have placed us. I saw a lot of that anguish and cries of wanting to escape from there.The fact that dolls express it, makes it a message with kindness and tenderness. A wonderful idea from the gallery.
LV: The show demonstrates how complex women’s’ role in society still is today. The varied materials, styles and points of view reflect some of the many conflicting messages about women stemming from the media, the political arena, religious institutions, and traditional family attitudes.

If dolls are given to girls and boys to help them identify themselves, and their future selves, how does your doll shape that?
MTP: Stacey Abrams is an awesome black woman who is an active, living role model for both children and adults.
HGT: My piece in this exhibition transforms the image of a rabbit and incorporates symbolic elements. Viewers can observe and discover from different angles, gaining diverse perspectives with each viewing. Similarly, children's growth experiences vary with different stages, and the content they can derive from the artwork changes over time. 
AC: My doll shape future adults to be emotionally strong.
KH: My dolls can appeal to boys and girls because they express universal moments that we can all live. At the same time, the colors are very attractive. They can easily identify with a celebration, with loving their pet, or setting a bird free from a cage or be free themselves.
LV: I am grateful to Melanie Prapopulous for telling me I didn’t have to create a doll. I chose to create an autobiographical piece, a family in the form of a two-part abstract hanging sculpture with references to the human form. My father was an important figure in Disability Rights and was in the public eye along with my mother, a homemaker who was his support system, and his four daughters. My mom, sisters and I were often on display, wearing pretty dresses, smiling like little dolls. In Family Constellation, the father is the golden orb, the mother is the delicate silver form that revolves around him, and the “girls” as we were known, are in the outer limits of this collective with only some semblance of individuality. Their identities are hidden within their forms.

Do you have a particular memory of any time you’ve spent with dolls/dollhouses that you carry with you?
MTP:  Yes. At age 10, a well-worn, much loved doll of mine burned up in a fire our family narrowly escaped. I felt a tremendous, disconcerting loss.
HGT: While I didn't have dolls accompanying me during my upbringing, I had a small blanket that I carried from childhood to adulthood. It provided me with a sense of comfort throughout my growth.
AC: Living in a small town in Brazil, earlier I started making dolls of clay I took from the river banks. They had branches as bones, roots as hair, pebbles as eyes... Ephemeral creatures breaking in my arms.
KH: Yes, I remember that my uncle had a toy store in Milan, Italy, and when we visited, I used to play with a spectacular dollhouse, furnished and decorated in such a lovely way that I felt like I was playing and living inside the house as if it were mine. I would create stories for hours! It's a very fond memory.
LV: I wasn’t that into doll’s as I was a bit more of a tomboy, but my little sister and I had our tonsils out when we were small, and our post-hospital promised gifts were The Barbie Convertible for her and The Barbie Doll Dream House for me. This was a bribe, as my mother really hated Barbie. 

As it turned out, I was so sick post-surgery I couldn’t begin to play with the cardboard dream house, but I was fascinated just by the way it folded up into a suitcase and unfolded to transform into this cool studio apartment with a modern couch that Barbie could sit on, her legs straight out. There was even a tiny reproduction Nat King Cole album cover to toss on the faux wood paneled stereo. What really fascinated me was the context of the dolls, not the narrative of “playing house.” I liked the furnishings, the scale and the architecture.

My sister recovered fast from her tonsillectomy. She sat our miniature dachshund Nicky on top of the convertible and sent him bombing down the back staircase! He was such a good-natured dog; he’d slowly come back up and take another downhill lap! Also, I loved a black formal dress Barbie had that was shiny and skin-tight with a whale tail. My sisters and I were forbidden to wear black. Years later, I got a dress exactly like it.


Can you elaborate on the connection between your piece and the theme of this year’s show? What do you hope folks take away from it?
MTP:  My piece in the show connects to the goal expressed in the CAMP Gallery's founder's show description; "to shatter the notion that for a woman, or anyone, to be accepted by society they must conform to unrealistic ideals created, imposed, and delivered by the patriarchy. This exhibition: This is Not a Doll’s House, in particular turns its gaze towards the patriarchal idea and illusion of woman as a doll-like object, an entity of fragility." Stacey Abrams is a politician, activist, writer, lawyer, and Democratic black woman in Georgia, not only focused on helping so many repressed people there, but also blowing the historic stereotypes of the region completely to oblivion.
HGT: Stereotypes and discrimination have always been challenging issues, regardless of the era. Therefore, the symbol used for this artwork is a question mark, representing uncertainty. It hangs there, awaiting a resolution. While gender awareness is gradually rising and offering protection to the relatively vulnerable in society, the question remains: do these rules and safeguards serve as the key to dismantling discrimination or do they inadvertently reinforce rigid stereotypes? Each scar on the body represents a piercing gaze from the public. Despite feeling vulnerable, there is still courage in asking these questions.
AC: She is Nora. I wonder though what the consequences are…you know, women being stronger than men. The end of families and family virtues? I don't know that’s the rabbit hole question of Ibsen play...should Nora stay in raise a family or leave because she needs to find true love or find out who she is as a human being…
KH: With my dolls, I want to contribute my bit to keep us in motion, not to stop on this path towards being ourselves and listening to ourselves. To change the route if it's not what we feel and want. Recalculate always and be aware of what we feel. I want to share joy, movement, and positivity. At the same time, each one has an additional simple yet important message: Free your soul, Adopt a pet, Celebrate life, and Love yourself. All part of this fascinating journey that all the women in the world have embarked on!
LV: The family dynamic in my Family Constellation is probably more typical of the 1950’s and 1960’s America, or of a family with parents that were first generation Americans, and of a society where women did not have or in my mother’s case, want equal power with their husbands. My mother was pleased with her supportive role. She had artistic talent and channeled her these into her homemaking. I grew up in “A Doll’s House” where “be seen and not heard” was a given, and the message was to grow up to be a dutiful wife and mother, and to study Education to have “a little job to fall back on.” The unspoken message was in case your husband dies.  This was completely at odds with the feminist rhetoric of the time.
I hope viewers recognize the dynamic between the family members and consider their own families. I hope parents will see my piece and think about how both mother and father are, just by their example, forceful role models and how important it is to talk with and listen to their children. Children are like little sponges absorbing even the subtlest of messages from their parents. I hope children will see my piece and enjoy the forms floating around and express their own nascent voices. 

About the author

Gabe Torres

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