Gouache on paper 23″ x 23″, 2001
About the piece:
Both An Invitation to the Dance and Valley of the Dolls, are a two of the last few images I painted of these pubescent dolls, which business like Tastee Freeze and Dairy Queen gave away in the 1940s and 50s as a promotional. My big sister, who was 9 years older, had a few and she would not let me touch them. Stored in an empty shoebox I would sneak into her room to play with them. Eventually she forgot them and I assumed ownership. Those were the first ones I drew. Since then I continue to rescue these dolls from flea markets and antique stores, along with many other figurines and objects. All of those items, sooner or later, end up in my work.
Wooden spools of colorful thread and baby dolls were the first items I worked from when I began to paint and draw from objects that I was able to choose. And – they were MY spools and baby dolls saved from childhood, which I still have as well as other dolls like the Tastee Freeze dolls that show up in later work. Clearly, toys are meant to train and shape our attitudes about what are culturally appropriate gender roles for when we’re grown and I loved my dolls. It is also important to note that all of these dolls conformed to a Western conception of ideal beauty. While some may have had darker skin, their facial features and hair were always the same and the pubescent ones I owned were all white and dressed in beautiful costumes – gowns to be exact, princesses.