Boudoir Dolls

made. Creative Space in Toowoomba, QLD has sent little passport-sized journals to a stack of artists, designers and writers, inviting us to fill them as we wish over about four months before submitting them for Project: Art Journal, an exhibition from 31 August to 18 September. 

I've chosen a "dark dolls" theme, starting with TtV shots of boudoir dolls. Popular during the interwar period, these dolls were for adult women only and the concept behind them is fascinating. They came into being in the 1920s, where their owners used them to vicariously experiment with rapidly changing roles for women. The dolls represented everything adventurous modern women wanted to be — they broke the rules by looking like flappers or silent movie stars, wearing glamorous fashions and make-up, and smoking. 

As the name suggests, boudoir dolls were displayed on women's bed. However, they weren't just for private life — owners took them to parties and posed with them in photographs.

Somehow, as always seems to happen with radical things, boudoir dolls were absorbed back into more restrictive views of women. They became an ideal gift from suitors, which were dressed in the same outfits as their owners, with the eventual aim of putting them in wedding dresses. In this sense, they came to represent a conservative ideal of of women.

Boudoir dolls are now vintage tragedies. While the originals are collectible works of art (made from silk, felt and other fine materials), the ones I see in charity shops comprise cheap plastic bodies, dressed in "southern belle" gowns that are crocheted from garish nylon ribbon, the same stuff grandmas use to make padded coat-hangers. They're definitely more "deceased estate" than "decadent".   

The dolls in my images are the latter kind. The focussing circle on my Mamiya C330 puts the emphasis on their eyes — sometimes they watch us, as if through a crystal clear magnifying glass, but other times their vacant gaze evokes pity.  



1 comment:

the sports hack said...

Yes. Who's looking at who?