This September I had the privilege of traveling to Fukuoka Japan where I was invited to make a personal appearance with the dolls for the occasion of the opening of a new Barneys New York store. It was my first time to Japan, and Fukuoka was a beautiful way to experience it. I never want to eat sashimi anywhere else but japan, and the yakitori was to DIE for!
The Barneys display team did a beautiful job with the installation.
Miss Ayano <3 <3 designed her amazing jeweled iPhone case.
Designer Yoshiyo Abe of Petite-Robe Noir, looking beautiful next to her doll.
Some of Petite Robe Noire's beautiful line of costume pearls- light as a feather, made from paper.
Custom bridal dolls.
Rhodon chou chou designers - future Kouklitas!
Ramon filming me in a short trip to the Hakata doll museum.
"India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
Harris' beautiful home, where I stayed.
Eastlight Creations Studio in South Delhi.
The markets in Old Delhi.
The trim shops.
Women carrying baskets of combs.
Harris Pontikis, owner of Eastlight Creations, my host & friend.
Leaving with some beautiful henna, my favorite souvenir.
A good friend has told me that I must see this exhibition at the Legion Of Honor Museum in San Francisco, take a look if you are in the area or get a chance. Below, from the museum's website:
February 5, 2011 - June 5, 2011
Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper. Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world. The Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave, although her creations have been widely displayed in Europe.
Pulp Fashion draws on several themes and presents quintessential examples in the history of costume—from Renaissance finery of the Medici family and gowns worn by Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette to the creations of the grand couturiers Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel. Special attention is given to the creations and studio of Mariano Fortuny, the eccentric early-20th-century artist who is both a major source of inspiration to de Borchgrave and a kindred spirit.
I was watching Dr. Zhivago today in anticipation of The Oscars. It won 6! And it's obvious why. The sets, acting, music, all dripping with gorgeous epic Hollywood glamour. They really DON'T make movies like that any more. Here are some screen captures of one of my favorite sets of all time.
"It was all worth my obsessive efforts, when, amid the smell of glue and wet plaster, the essence of all that is impressive would take shape and become a real object to be posessed." - Hans Bellmer, Memories of a Doll Theme.
"To become truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the realms of childhood vision and dreams."
I was obsessed with seeing this exhibition in London a few years ago, and it looks like they've been touring...maybe I'll see these gorgeous dolls in person when I make it to Europe in September.
Aside from the fact the fashions on the dolls were painstakingly recreated by the fashion house in exact detail- the dolls themselves are something of a marvel. As I learned from the book from the exhibition-- they were created using actual porcelain molds of antique doll faces, melded with the more fashion friendly body shape of an adult doll.
The life sized mannequins also got some doll treatment of their own-- including giant porcelain heads and glass eyes.
I recently shot over 50 dolls in various group compositions for JOYCE Hong Kong, anticipating a collaborative event for their 40th anniversary that I have been working on since March. It wasn't easy. The photographers were inspired by the work of Irving Penn, particularly the black and white groups. It was hours of work getting the girls in the right place for each shot, but the end result was stunning. Stay tuned for more. After the large scale group pictures, they posed in trios and duos, much like the lovely ladies of the Louis Vuitton A/W 2010 campaign.
I was fascinated by Juan Albuerne's fashion doll repaints when I first started collecting fashion dolls years ago. This talented Spanish artist has a unique eye for what makes a face a face, which is obvious by his gorgeous caricatures as well. I've followed his work for years, and was disappointed when I stopped seeing new work coming out from his main website with all of his Candi, Barbie, FR, and Charice repaints; juanalbuerne.com.
It only just occured to me that I should probably google him and see if he was working on anything new--- and voila! A flickr page pops up. He seems to have moved on to Pullip, which seems to work better in some cases than others, but definitely lends itself to his caricature aesthetic.
I was very pleased to wake up this morning and find out that my little Kouklita I mentioned last week made it onto the Enchanted Doll Blog. Many of you know what a big fan I am of Marina's work, and for a long time I was debating whether or not to enter the contest. My dolls are a lot of work - and very time consuming, and the contest correlated exactly with my move, (into both a new apartment and studio.). But I decided to take a chance and use it as an opportunity to innovate (see below entry about the yarn wig.)
My friend Josh also entered the contest, he made a gorgeous water color painting -- and both of us turned into little kids again waiting for the contest results.
My entry is titled, Rusalka, after the Russian tale of a water sprite, and Marina has rechristened her Raglily, which definitely suits her, as her face was inspired by Lily, the $40,000 Enchanted Doll who was auctioned off this last winter. When I started the Kouklitas I also began a correspondence with Marina- we exchanged inspirations and ideas, and she was more than encouraging when she saw my work. Thank you Marina! I have to admit, it is bittersweet knowing she made it to the top ten (I was THIS close people. THIS close to a nude Pearl, or some silver shoes, or a bronze crown.) but the winning entries were truly deserving, and there's always next year. And I put my name down on the list for one of her resin beauties...so hopefully it won't be long. I like to think we are both starting a revolution in doll collecting! You and Chad are more than welcome to crash at my place if you ever make it out to NYC!
As mentioned a few entries back, I have teamed up with illustrator Joshua David McKenney to develop a prototype for a new doll. She will by no means replace The Kouklita, but rather live beautifully next to her on a shelf. It has been an interesting process, and because of our busy schedules, both of us haven't been able to dedicate the time we want to her creation - but we are in no rush. She may turn out to be more puppet or work of art than doll, but chances are she'll be all three.
We referenced antique china dolls as guides-- moving forward with my aesthetic and taste for softer playable dolls we decided early on that the torso and limbs will be sewn and stuffed, and the extremities; heads and hands, will be cast in resin. The process of developing a sculpt over the past few months, and really perfecting it, and then creating a mold and casting a head, has been quite fun. I am a super perfectionist, so my head/bust sculpt went through several rhinoplasties and at one point an entire neck lift- I am pleased with the final result, but always critical. Josh is the more experienced sculptor, and he seemed to create his head with a little more finesse (his bust looks consistent and gorgeous from every angle, while mine seems to be a little more of a changeling. In some lighting she is fairy like, and at some angles she is severe.)
The original head sculpts before multiple resurfacing, nosejobs, and a complete necklift
We opted for a paint on mold making method- it was more time consuming, but more accurate.
Building support shells for the mold.
The first resin casts next to the original finished sculpts.
My roommate and I have yet to purchase a television for our new apartment.
Its a good thing. More reading, more sewing, more time spent cleaning. We decided we want to always be making puzzles. The new thrift shop in the neighborhood that I'm totally obsessed with, THE VORTEX, had an amazing puzzle for five dollars. I wanted to buy the box, knowing that there was no way the puzzle could be intact. The puzzle was made in England, and apparently handcut. The company who made them was called Optimago.
After we started the puzzle, I found myself distracted (of course.). So I spent some time doing research about the puzzlemaker, but to no avail. I think these were made in the late eighties. Optimago no longer exists (when was the last time you put together a puzzle?), and this is one of twelve. The prints were done by a man named Fletcher, one for each month of the year. And the puzzles are a key-- each flower is named at the bottom. It was painstaking to complete (just ask my roommate), but worthwhile, and we were quite pleased to discover all of the pieces...intact.
When I was a kid, my favorite chore was mopping. I just loved the look of the wet yarns in the mop bucket, and then swirling around the floor. I used to wring out the mop and dance with it like she was a tall skinny waltzing partner, entranced by the yarns. I thought it was the most glamorous kind of hair in the world.
Early on when I was making the rag dolls, I knew I wanted to make yarn wigs. But I wanted thicker pile yarns that were more durable and hefty that what I found available to me at all of the special shops here. And then, after moving into my new apartment, I was exploring the local dollar stores when, voila! Mop heads! I bought one and then started on a wig for a special doll. The prototype wig ended up being a touch too thick...but still quite beautiful. More to come!
Snejana modeling a weft piece of the first Kouklitas Yarn wig.
The sewn wig on the final doll. More details on this beauty to follow soon.
I stumbled upon Nancy Latham's Wistful Children when I was flipping through the last issue of DollReader Magazine. She paints on fabric dolls- but the unique aspect about her work is the fact that she is inspired by daguerrotypes of children from the late 19th century. She also makes short films, and given the hype about Alice and Wonderland, I thought I'd repost one of the flicks she made, quite cute.
Here is the film by Ryan Kennedy inspired by the exhibition Valley Of the Dolls, hosted by yours truly and THE BLOCK MAGAZINE
And you can read a fun interview I did with Susan Locht, Editor in Chief of THE BLOCK Magazine here. The article also has a few great photos from the event and has some cool information about my process.
After spending six hours installing the girls I created exclusively for THE BLOCK MAGAZINE on a lovely wintery day in New York City with the buzzing energy of Fashion Week in the air, the doors to Envoy Gallery opened to throngs of excited people, magazine lovers, and doll friends. My lovely friend Ryan Kennedy created a short film exclusively for the event, entitled "Pethidine" working from the theme The Valley of the Dolls. The absinthe was flowing, and over 400 people squeezed through the space over the course of the evening. I am full of gratitude to every one who made such an evening possible. Look forward to a more thorough review of the party on THE BLOCK's official website, as well as an interview with yours truly!
This is the first of many posts that will be dedicated to the late and great Alexander McQueen. This is an article written in The New York Times reviewing his Fall 2009 collection that sums up the designer's frustration with the industry.
Beauty has always been a defining characteristic of my work, and what I believe most great artwork aspires to. But one can't present beauty in a totally traditional way, or it becomes boring. When I created Ingrid St. Clare and Cora and Clarice, there was always a part of me that resisted pushing them into the grotesque. I shy from it, like I'm doing something wrong. Throughout the ages, in film, news media, literature, and folklore, the disfigurement of beauty has always been an easy method to pull at some emotional heartstrings. From horror movies in the sixties with pretty girls being chased by psycho plastic surgeons, to real life horror stories of women getting acid thrown on their faces, there is nothing more tragic than beauty lost, or beauty scarred.
What leads depth to the work, and lessens the psychological shock factor, is the fact that in these creatures, the tragedy sometimes lends to the beauty. I find that when I write the stories to some of the dolls that end more tragically, there is definitely a bigger response rather than if one just saw the doll as is. From darkness comes beauty. Sometimes the inner beauty becomes more apparent, or the nostalgia for the beauty lost overcomes the current state of ugliness.
I watched Goya's Ghosts last night, a movie directed by Milos Forman, who also did Amadeus, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The work of Francisco Goya is tragic beauty exemplified, his paintings and illustrations of the Spanish Inquisition and the French invasion during the early 19th century are eerie and glorious. While the movie overall is terrible ( I am convinced this could have been different were the film scored differently see my separate review on my other blog, yangabang) most of the acting, and gorgeous sets and costumes make it worth watching should you catch it playing on the television. I am a sucker for period movies, so I picked this one up for three dollars at a BigLots store when I was home for the holidays. Javier Bardem plays a man devoted to the cause, Stellan Skaarsgard is an indifferent Goya, and Natalie Portman is both muse and epitome of tragic beauty. As a young girl she is persecuted by the reigning Christians and coerced into a false confession, condemning her to prison for 15 years. When she emerges from the dungeons, the breathtaking virgin has become a hideous crone, complete with scaly skin and massive underbite. I kept waiting for her redemption, a makeover, a return to life, but she ends up being pushed to insanity, and although some of her hair grows back, she is never the same again. We come to learn that she begat a child in prison, and the viewer is temporarily relieved to see her beauty is restored through her daughter (also played by Natalie Portman)-- but it too is tainted. The daughter is a prostitute, and along with a bolder, darker pallette (raven hair, red clothes, whereas the earlier Natalie is a chestnut brown with creamy blues and whites) she is also given a set of bolder, bigger teeth. While some reviews made fun of this cosmetic tactic, I found it to be quite effective and believable. It pushed Natalie Portman's appearance into something vulgar and edgy. She was still beautiful, but no longer pristine and polished.
Beauty redeemed, and tainted.
There is something very alluring about this fall from grace, and it is something that I will continually explore throughout my work, whatever the medium. And while there might be a little more of the tragic and grotesque in my future dolls, rest assured, they will always be beautiful.