Dolls are traditionally considered to be pretty playthings. As such, they are non-threatening, mere toys, used by children to act out their innocent fantasies.
Well . . . Margi Hennen makes dolls with such a wack-load of personality, you’d swear they were six feet tall. They evince the kinds of messages that cavort with your cranium, instigating such eruptions as a hearty guffaw or an expletive (“&$#@% ! That is so true!). Kristen Pauch-Nolin characterizes them as “subversive . . . . capable of inciting, reflection, dialogue and change.” See some of them here, and here. Pretty playthings? Hardly!
I am tempted to characterize these dolls as jesters. Wikipedia reminds us that “the court jester – precisely because anything he said was by definition “a jest” and “the uttering of a fool” – could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for . . . Still, even the jester was not entirely immune from punishment, and he needed to walk a thin line and exercise careful judgement in how far he might go – which required him to be far from a “fool” in the modern sense.”
A tip of the mock sceptre to Master Jester Hennen, who is far from a fool herself: her dolls are not made to play with. They play with you!
A number of years ago, I created a doll for a very personal reason. My mother was experiencing a serious health concern. As an artist, my immediate response to life challenges is to explore them artistically. The result was a small doll: an art form I seldom utilize, but which brought me comfort. I felt that my love and concern were manifesting themselves as stitches. She (the doll) represents transcendence– transcendence of illness, pain, separation from loved ones. Stars, and the occasional moon (which I always think of as a feminine symbol) cover her body, indicative of heavenly realms.
When I offered this doll to my mother, I told her the story of its making. I hoped she could embrace the willingness inherent in the doll’s outstretched arms and yearning face, to accept life’s offerings, no matter what the guise. Obviously, I was revealing the same message to myself.