What was the germ of inspiration for this project?

This project is an extension of The Black Doll series that I’ve been engaged with creating for several years now.

Across cultures, dolls have commonly been used to represent the human figure; to instill in girls a sense of care and maternity. For many children of color, the dolls chosen for us are also our first introduction to the divisive concept of “race,” specifically if the doll’s skin tone or features do not match our own.

With this work I question the historical role dolls have played in establishing conventional expressions of gender and race. As a parent, I am further interested in how the mass production of dolls have perpetuated or upheld oversimplified opinions about race, femininity and (m)otherhood.

Can you describe your process with this project?

Sourcing original imagery of black vintage dolls for sale on e-commerce sites like Etsy and eBay, I download the seller’s images of these dolls then reformat and abstract them beyond recognition using Photoshop. In their final presentation, I pair the abstracted image with the doll’s item description posted by the seller on these e-commerce sites.

What do you want people to take away from this work?

I’d like the viewer to consider the role dolls may have played during their childhood in the forming of self biases and prejudices. I’m also interested in how visual art can be used to unlearn these dehumanizing ideologies that we’re socialized into.

So in the case of this series, what happens when the photographic representation of these dolls are (digitally) broken down into basic, formal elements of shape and color? What meaning, if any, can we derive from these captions provided by the sellers? Can abstraction be used to deconstruct racial and gender stereotypes?

Qiana Mestrich