Meet the Newest (Paper Doll) Cool Girl!

I have waxed poetic about my love of paper dolls in the past, and am happy to announce the first new member to my squad in a couple of years.

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Following the traditional format of my other paper doll pages, Kady comes wearing a swimsuit with accessories that include an animal companion, a dressy outfit, a casual outfit, a jacket, and an outfit having to do with a profession or hobby. My girls have run the gamut from astronaut, to scientist, to artist, to baker, and athlete … presidential candidate was the obvious next move :). Kady 2020!

 

Since a lot of the fun is sharing clothes with other dolls, I am currently working on a second doll who uses a wheelchair as well that Kady will be able to swap clothes with, named Isla. Isla will come with some fun fantasy based outfits such as a fairy and princess costume, and may or may not have a pet dragon named Electra in tow ;).

What I always loved about dolls as a kid, be they paper dolls or Barbies, was having dolls that all looked completely different from each other so that each was their own unique character with their own backstory, interests, and personality when I played out my epic imaginative tales. I want to continue expanding my collection so that everyone can have a doll that looks like them, but also a bunch that don’t!

All of my paper doll sets are available at a brick and mortar location inside Imagine That! in downtown Midland MI for those in the area, and also online in my Ebay Store.

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New Work : January

Happy 2016 Everyone!

Since I took a year off after showing at Art Prize in 2014, I have been trying to come up with another big idea to enter in 2016. For Art Prize, you kind of have to go big or your art will get lost among the crowd. The problem is, I hate working large. I’ve tried, but it’s just not as fun for me. I like the intimacy of smaller pieces that you really have to step right up to to acknowledge all the finer details. I also can’t imagine limiting myself to just one subject or image. With art, I tend to zoom around from one idea to another like a little bee who has accidentally found its way into someone’s cup of espresso. Because of this, I knew I wanted to do another series of smaller pieces hung together for impact. Another thing I have to be careful of, as with any artist, is falling prey to the “Master of None” syndrome. Master of None : Great television show, death when used to describe an artist’s body of work. After kicking around (and half starting) a variety of different ideas, I decided to stick to the conceptual portraits I have been developing over the last two years rather than trying a style that I like, but haven’t spent much time with. I will be doing a series of 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences.

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A new piece will be released each month, with an accompanying title, “She Is ________________”.

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January – She Is Far Away

As with much of my other portrait work, I find my inspiration in nameless antique photographs. The simple, faded photos tell me a story, which I then bring to life in my mixed media drawings. I was drawn to a photo of a young girl, her hair piled and molded into an elaborate, fashionable sculpture, draped in a fine, silken dress an adult would surely appreciate, but that did not look like it was very conducive to play. Her eyes had a far off look to them. Her expression was a mixture of bored and melancholy, but to me it even looked like she was trying to hide these negative emotions to remain neutral and pleasant for the camera.

In “January”, her traveling thoughts are personified as children’s drawings on a crumpled piece of notebook paper, flowing from her mind. Though she has been made up to look like a miniature adult, the very model of sophisticated fashion, her imagination dreams the dreams of children: dinosaurs, astronauts, rocket ships, and animal creatures of the air and sea. These thoughts are purposefully camouflaged into the rest of the image, the colors so paled and harmonious the viewer almost doesn’t notice. What does stand out is the heavy grid work of the window behind and the bold, contrasting pattern of the adjacent curtains. She is closed in, separated from the free, bright winter landscape outdoors, hidden behind frosted windowpanes.

How often are children treated like dolls, especially young girls? I mean last week, I was at the mall and I saw sparkly high heels for babies. You heard that right, high heels for beings that haven’t even entirely learned how to walk yet. Let me know how that works out. The words we use to describe them are even descriptors we would use for dolls : pretty, cute, adorable, beautiful … Now, there is nothing wrong with compliments, nothing wrong with telling someone they look nice. However, as parent Sharon Holbrook states in her  Washington Post article Little Girls Don’t Need To Be Told They’re Beautiful, “The more I talk about beauty and looks, even in a positive way, the more I’m conveying the importance of those things.” Disproportionately young girls are complimented for their looks, while young boys are complimented for their performance. The thing is, looks change, and by emphasizing “prettiness” over all other traits, girls can be set up for poor confidence in the future. When girls feel that their value lies in how they look, it limits their perception of their own potential, and they will even start to limit the activities they engage in for fear that they will look “bad” or “ugly” while trying a new activity. I am a big fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and think it is just about one of the coolest organizations out there right now. This concept is behind Smart Girls’ Get Your Hair Wet campaign, encouraging young girls to live life the fullest, be open to trying new things, and focus on the experience itself rather than worrying about how you look while doing it. I remember being a kid, and seeing some of my female classmates refuse to get into the pool in swim class because they “don’t look cute with wet hair”, or not wanting to play tag at recess on a hot day because they might get sweaty and “look ugly”. Do you think any 9 year old boys were out there worrying about being sweaty???

All in all, it all comes down to a vocabulary adjustment, and complimenting girls on things that they actually have control over, rather than things gifted to them in the great lottery of nature. It comes down to being mindful, complimenting a young girl (or adult woman for that matter) on the creative way she put together the awesome outfit she is wearing, or the great smile she has when she gets excited about something. It also comes down to treating kids like kids; holding them back from trying to grow up too fast, letting them get messy, letting them wear things that might look insanely goofy, and allowing them to hold onto that complete lack of self-consciousness that comes with being a kid for as long as humanly possible.

 

 

 

Gender Inequality : Not Just A STEM Issue

Piece from a project tallying art world inequality and creating posters out of the data collected.

In this post, I’d like to talk about an issue that is close to my heart. It covers a range of bases, so I’ll try not to jump around too much. I have to start off by giving a little bit of history. I have always had a hyper-awareness towards injustice. I have a vivid childhood memory of cringing whenever the old Trix cereal commercials would come on in between my morning cartoons. I could just feel the righteous anger bubbling up inside of me as the kids taunted the Trix Bunny with choruses of “Silly rabbit …” They have no right to say that Trix are only for kids, not rabbits! He invented the freaking cereal! He’s on the cover of the box for crying out loud! There would be no colorful fruity shapes without him! (This was, of course, when I was young enough to think the animated characters running around before my eyes actually existed in real life.) So naturally, when I began to perceive instances of gender bias in the adult conversations I eavesdropped on and the kids around me at school, I did not approve. Basically, Lisa Simpson and I would have been soul mates. It was kind of a shock, since my home growing up had been completely void of any such thing. My brother and I were given the same expectations, and when we were approached differently by mom and dad it was due to our completely opposite personality types, not our gender. We were four years apart, kind of the perfect gap: close enough in age so that we could still relate to each other well enough to play together, but far enough apart so that we weren’t constantly feeling like we needed to compete. We shared toys all the time, and both played with stereotypical “boy” things and stereotypical “girl” things from time to time. It wasn’t really a big deal.

Despite what people think (I mean, everyone can vote now so it’s all good, right?), gender discrimination is not just a distant memory, and it continues to hurt both men and women, though for today I’ll mainly be talking about women. Gender separation in toys has gotten way worse than it ever was in the past, with every single little toy down to a basic set of blocks relegated to being pink or blue. Some consumers are finally saying enough is enough with the “Pink vs Blue” binary madness, and are also seriously starting to question what the doll section in any local walmart or toy store is communicating to young girls. I myself have wondered that same thing, and my queries have most often led to nothing good. Enter Lammily, a doll with realistic body proportions, moveable joints that allow her to do more than simply be a human clothes hanger, and stickers to add imperfections we all have like acne, scars, and cellulite.

The toy problem is just the tip of the iceberg. The US has one of the worst science gender gaps in the developed world, and marketing ridiculous shirts like these below to young girls certainly isn’t  helping.

It’s no wonder educators and innovators are doing anything and everything they can to encourage young girls towards STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics).

Every little bit helps, and I am in no way downing any of the goodhearted initiatives mentioned above, I just think we can do more. We can always do more, do better, be more comprehensive in our reach. I have to admit, if the Lammily doll would have existed when I was a kid, taking one look at her ultra-preppy wardrobe of mostly simple solids, I would have totally still begged for the anorexic doll with giant boobs, ideals be damned. Why can’t a realistic doll still wear lace and sequins or giant earrings or crazy neon floral patterns once in awhile? Realistically, that’s how some girls actually dress! Giving her a more subdued, athletic looking, polo-shirt-laden wardrobe isn’t revolutionary at all. In fact, in the real world, that sort of style is actually preferred and women who step outside of that and dress more “girly” are more likely to be perceived negatively. It has been proven that women who wear more masculine clothing (simple, straight silhouettes, angular lines, dark neutral colors) are perceived as more competent in the workforce, taken more seriously and given a higher level of respect in their current job, and are more likely to get hired to a new position. This is also why you see frantic posts by young women online asking whether it’s ok to be a feminist and wear makeup or dresses or high heels. Yes Virginia, there is as of yet no official uniform for thinking equality is a rad idea.

Similarly, encouraging a girl towards STEM who is truly interested in science but is simply intimidated or feels like “Well I’m not supposed to do this because I’m a girl,” or encouraging a girl who is worried to stand out from her peers and be teased if she admits she thinks math is fun, is truly awesome. How amazing for a kid to realize what their passion is so early in life, and to help them grow and learn in that passion is a beautiful thing. However, I sometimes worry that in trying to tear down walls we are simply creating a new sort of box. What about the artsy girls?

New York Times explains why we actually need STEAM (Science Technology Engineering ART Mathematics), STEM alone is not enough. The idea that a person is either right brained or left brained doesn’t work. We need to use both sides to be effective. I took science all 4 years of high school even though it wasn’t required. The decision was at first at the urging of my parents, but though the exams were killer, I loved getting to move forward into taking Chemistry and Physics and found the information and experiments in class fun and inspiring. When I teach children, I love integrating scientific experimentation into art. It’s great for keeping kids focused and involved. Recently I did a project with my children’s watercolor class where we tested how lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, salt, oil, and milk reacted with the paints, and afterword they made pictures incorporating the new textures they learned how to create.

Yes, girls are underrepersented in STEM fields but the fact of the matter is they are also woefully underrepresented in the art world. Art News reported this year on findings from over the last 7, where on average women artists exhibited in only 10-20% of the solo shows at American Institutions over the last 7 years. A slightly smaller percentage of women artists were featured in group shows. Before you protest, “But they are just picking the best art!” these percentages apply to non-anonomous submissions. Truthout reported in their article, Women Artists Still Face Discrimination, that studies have shown if you submit work to a juried exhibit and the jurors don’t know the gender of the person submitting, it ends up pretty equal in terms of who is selected. But as soon as the artist’s gender is known, women drop back to one third. It is why pen names are still a thing in art as well as literature. Famed writer of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has been pretty candid about the fact that way back when she was told she should publish the series under her initials rather than her first name, Joanna, because young men won’t want to read books written by a woman. (They will not only assume it to be poorly written, but will fear catching any residual “cooties”.)

Why choose only one genre of barrier to break down? We should be smashing all of them, all while encouraging our own children and the kids around us to excel in the area they love, whatever it ends up being.