Friday, January 11, 2013

Lizzy Ansingh and Her Dolls

A large part of my own art is the theme of dolls as muses. Logically, this leads to drawing a lot of clothes, or fashion. I'm sure this is how many fashion designers started out. However, Lizzy Ansingh takes drawing dolls  in another direction, not fashion exactly but to fantasy worlds. Which is not exactly distinct from fashion because presumably a fantasy garment will be worn in a situation where it would look somehow appropriate.   Here is a nice song for you to listen to while you read the rest of my meditation.


Garments are not designed to stand by themselves because of their inherent function. Those which are supposedly meant to stand alone as art still imply the existence of a fantasy world because the idea that clothes are meant to be worn can not be separated from the clothes themselves. That would be like trying to separate food from the idea that food is to be eaten. Of course many have tried to play with the idea of food as something else. Ultimately, necessities are not very flexible symbols that you can meddle with without evoking their purpose. Fantastic clothes will always beg questions about their functions.

Lizzy Ansingh painted portraits of her dolls, not as stuffy still lifes, but as inhabitants of another world. This is accurate as far as what they represent to children in the midst of a game. I never bought the barbie as a destroyer of girls' body images because imaginative games are not that literal. If they are they are reenactments of what children observe around them, not the products of their imaginations. I think that there is a big difference between children who mostly reenact what is around them and ones who mostly come up with other things. I was the latter kind of child, and Ansingh was too.

 I was displeased with the crappy pink clothes that came with my dolls. I had several book about antique dolls, like the ones Ansingh had. I wanted my Barbies to have clothes like that. So I made them with random scraps. I remember one of the best "Victorian" dresses consisted of a sock, a broken Christmas ornament, feathers form a duster, a broken earring and some scraps of lace. The design was cohesive because all the parts were all black. Come to think that might be when my romance with the color black began too. It is also how I learned to sew.

 Here is Ansingh with her doll house. Her doll house reminds me of Lauri Lipton's Haunted Dollhouse. I plan to write a full entry about her later.

I suspect that Madeleine Vionnet must have also developed her techniques while playing with dolls at an early age. She continued to use dolls while designing her garments instead of traditional models to gain "greater abstraction". She didn't create preparatory drawings either. I was so pleased to discover this because when I applied to a fashion program at a prestigious college they thought I was joking when I told them that I don't really draw things before I make them. At least I am not alone. 

I plan to share some of my work in the future but I am away from home so I can't take any good pictures and the existing ones are old and rather unimpressive. Anyway here is one that ended up becoming a real dress with some alterations. This is from 2007 when I was in high school. As you can see I added a spider web to the original design which is quite simple. It is tricky to make a Barbie proportioned dress into a human proportioned one.

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