|The Artful Dodger: Can someone explain what distinguishes a doll maker from a figural artist?|
|Written by Stephanie Finnegan|
|Wednesday, 12 October 2011 13:06|
The other day, my daughter, who is 6 going on 36, announced that she had to write a paragraph in school about her future plans and ambitions. Thatâs a great deal of forward-thinking for a bunch of first graders. Jane was very pleased with herself because she poured out her energy into composing a look at her life as a chemist/scientist.
However, as she was regaling me with her futuristic rĂ©sumĂ©, she seemed to be smiling like the cat who devoured the proverbial canaryâor maybe the cat who lapped up the cream. Itâs a much nicer simile.
âWhatâs up with the grin, Jane?â I asked.
She replied, nearly bursting with her own cleverness, âThis was just a cover. Iâm really going to be a secret agent; but if I said that, everyone would know, so I had to come up with something else.â
And with that kernel of truth confirmedâdeception is a spyâs most trusty toolâshe left to go upstairs and play with her Pixie Hollow fairies. (Theyâre all members of a secret society of winged agents who battle criminals, solve mysteries, and preserve law and order. This is her own invention, sort of a âCSI: Never Landâ edition.)
When I heard Jane offer up her very tricky ruseâdoing one thing and calling it anotherâI immediately thought of the whole furor that still heats up occasionally regarding âdoll artistâ vs. âfigural artistâ vs. âsoft-sculpture artistâ vs. âdoll maker.â
Are all of these labels one and the same, or is there a distinct difference among the ladies and gentlemen depending on what they label themselves?
Many years ago, I heard someone (who shall remain nameless) stand a few inches from my face and explain how men are definitely âartists,â whereas the women are âmakers.â
This person opined that women tend to personalize and imbue their creations with backstories and fictional histories and coo over them, and act as if every finished product was a matter of birthing. The men, however, were more objective and worked on honing their craft, capturing lifelike muscles and movement, and created beautiful works of art that stood on their own meritâno personalities or storylines required.
Channeling my inner Gloria Steinem, but making sure I didnât tread on any toes, I tamped down my feminist knee-jerk reaction and tried to talk with this jerk on some kind of human-to-human level.
No luck. The opinion was set in stone.
According to this conversationalist, all men with a kiln were doll artists; all women were doll makers! Well, if we hopped aboard this train of thought, it wasnât the talent that pulled the freight or chugged the engine. It wasnât the genre, but rather the GENDER alone that distinguished who should be accorded this special accolade.
So I ask, what does make the difference in these word choices? What makes someone a âmakerâ as opposed to an âartist?â
In show business, is there a difference between the âfilm industryâ and the âmovie industryâ?
There was a time when âfilmâ seemed to suggest something more artistic and insightful. Perhaps it was what one would watch in a college course that celebrated Scandinavian celluloid soul-searching: lots of Ingmar Bergmanânot so much Ingrid Bergman.
And movies? Well, that seemed to be applied to escapism versus existentialism. Popcorn and soda pop, mounds of M&Msâthat seemed to be the real purpose behind movies. Itâs a way to entertain you while you handed over your hard-earned cash at the candy counter.
I suppose a movie was two hoursâ worth of empty, mental calories: not a lot of heavy thinking required. A film was supposed to nourish the soul.
But that distinction has blurred, and I hear schlock-meisters like Michael Bay, the âgeniusâ behind the âTransformersâ flicks, described as a filmmaker.
More to the point, when Steven Spielberg creates a picture like âJawsâ or âRaiders of the Lost Ark,â is he making a movie? But when he stands behind the cameras for âSchindlerâs List,â is he suddenly making a film? Does he wear both hatsâor in his case, both baseball caps?
It gives me something to consider when I talk about my collecting and my day-to-day work in the doll world.
Do I have to bite my tongue and apologize if I call a certain artist a âdoll makerâ? Do I have to defend my position if I say someone is a âdoll artist,â and she sees herself as a âfigural sculptorâ?
Whatâs the difference? And does it make a difference to youâthe readers of the magazine and of this blog, the collectors of the dolls (aka âartworkâ), the artists/sculptors/doll makers? Where do you stand on this issue?
Iâd love to hear from an array of people who are immersed in this field, and find out what makes you implode or explode. In the world of doll artistry, does the prefix of âdollâ automatically diminish its significance? And in the world of doll commerce, does the notion of âan artistâs originalâ immediately add to its monetary cachet? And if a Mattel Barbie is swaddled in the mantle of a Gustav Klimt painting, does it rise in meaning?Letâs discuss, in an artful way, naturally!
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