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Barbara C. Hart

ARTIST STATEMENT

Barbara C. Hart

My primary work is doll making. For the past five years, I’ve worked in wood, drawing on the surface to represent different characters. I want to create a broad representation of different members of society — people on the fringe, power players, from light and humorous to intensely sad characters.

There is life in the eyes of each doll. They are individuals, but significantly, they are also part of a larger whole. They are meant to interact somehow. Their meaning within the group is changed when another character is added or taken away. I’ve worked with creating physical environments for them, and while that is a worthwhile artistic endeavor, it’s not the answer I’m after. Applying meaning through physical surroundings or “sets” is superfluous. The “art” here, is the relationship between the figures themselves. This is what I’m exploring — the question of how they relate to each other, and how we experience them.

Stylistically, I’m influenced by 19th-century Queen Anne dolls and/or the Santos dolls of the early southwest. Originally working with the small and uniform shape of the peg dolls, I’ve increased the scale and I’m adding articulation. I’m putting the emphasis on carving detail rather than drawing (although I continue to work with color). My vision is to create a number of these dolls, experimenting with scale, surface detail, image. I anticipate some sort of narrative developing, but it will be loose and malleable. The strength lies in allowing for the individual viewer to freely identify and interpret the figures, especially as they are arranged and rearranged with other dolls.

At a much simpler level, I feel a strong connection to the rich history of domestic craft. I love the concept of creating for others and the tradition of orally passing down technique. I also relate to simple methods and materials. I’ve always tried to imbue my work with a sense of history — the idea that it was made by or for a specific person. Accessibility to the craft form is also important. Along this line of thinking, I prefer working with natural materials. Wood, stone, paper. I crave the feeling of carving and drawing on wood. Nothing feels better.