Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Paper Doll for our Times

Do you know those special times when you complete something or create something and you are so happy about it, you admire it over and over again? Maybe you’ve planted a garden or crocheted a pillow or set a table; and you go back to it again and again just to look at it?

These are Golden Moments, and you receive them in rare bursts of well-being and accomplishment. Mostly, you keep them secret unless you drag in new victims to share it with and you get to crow a little.

So here’s my creation.

It’s a paper doll, but instead of changing clothes, she changes her protest signage. Just like me.

In real life, I carry the same sign and stick but just cover it with a new paper sleeve each time. (Just like my sister Allison! And we didn’t even know we both did that.) While I was working on this, Tim was de-cluttering the garage. He found some of my very old signs from the Iraq War. What was going on in Latin America? I’d forgotten I had those colored ribbons, too.
Now I’m at work on a paper doll with a wardrobe of new books she’s reading. Maybe reading to a child. Maybe I’ll make an assortment of the activist dolls like an assortment of Barbies – do you want the brunette, the older one, the guy? All of us, standing up and speaking out.

It all started with this wonderful poster about “creative resilience and the artist’s duty in dark times”:
This led to a mental Third Third flash: was I moving through these “dark times” as an activist or an artist? Or had I never decided – never even thought of the choice – and so was moving through half-assed? And was I really neither anyway?

But then my bricolage group delivered the next assignment: make paper dolls. And I thought of McCall’s magazine and mounting each issue’s Betsy on cardboard and cutting out the clothes with their little tabs. (Did you do that?) And how when my brother wanted to play, we created the Legion of Super Heroes paper dolls and wasn’t it miraculous that when I was de-cluttering Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, out fell all the Super Heroes (whose clothes were all their normal identities of course and who must have been in Uncle Wiggily only because it was the fattest book)? Why do I have Wonder Woman’s tiara but no Wonder Woman?

My deck of Peter Dunlap-Shohl’s wonderful White House of Cards arrived in the mail, and I thought: Could I make other paper dolls with their signs? Elizabeth Cady Stanton for the vote, Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman,” Elizabeth Warren “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Would you want a paper doll that looked like you or your friends or family? With a blank to create your own signs?

I think I’m still rather half-assed as an artist and activist, but inspiration struck and now I have paper dolls – a new generation of Super Heroes, but they’re us. Or rather, we have to be them. Let me know if you want one.


  1. This is awesome ...I want I want two! One for me and my aunt!

  2. I'd forgotten Betsy McCall. I have a mental picture of myself sitting on the living room floor putting different outfits on MY Betsy McCall. Thanks for triggering that memory!

  3. Love your interpretation of the challenge!


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