All real artists get turned into a doll


Self portrait as a bisque doll, 2018.


I was inspired– negatively, so… unspired?– by the fuss about a recent Frida Kahlo Barbie doll, of which the doll itself was probably the least offensive thing. Yes, it somewhat cleaned and prettied up a woman rightly famous for being a feminist and a communist who was ahead of her time in foregrounding the disabled body, and who meticulously cultivated and promoted her own standard of style and beauty… but having a Barbie doll depicting her (alongside aviator Amelia Earhart and the mathematician Katherine Johnson) is surely better than children aspiring to have lots of clothes, perfect teeth and big tits so they can monetise on Instagram or be a Youtuber. In any case what was really unseemly and gross was the tussle between her distant relatives and the Panamanian-based Frida Kahlo Corporation over who gets the right to exploit her image for things she’d probably never have agreed to when she was alive. Corporations based in Panama are never dodgy, of course.

Anyway, there’s a whole mini-genre of artist dolls. Mattel has form in this area, with previous Van Gogh, Klimt and Leonardo-esque “Signature” Barbies. You can get Rembrandt morphed with Miffy at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, an Edvard Munch Scream Hello Kitty, and from the Van Gogh Museum, a knitted Van Gogh. “Will make a great baby shower gift or birthday gift for your niece or nephew,” apparently. Weird assumption that the Van Gogh Museum’s visitors are all childless and the kind of peculiar, gauche uncle or aunt who’d gift a baby with a doll of mentally ill man who only sold two paintings while he was alive, but I guess they know what they’re doing?

Rosa Bonheur is not very famous nowadays– and frankly there’s not much reason why she should be because her paintings of farms, cows and houses are super kitsch and haven’t aged well– but in her day she was famous enough to be turned into a popular doll of the 1860s. Even more suprisingly, Bonheur was what we’d now call queer; she was one of the very few women in Paris with an official police permit to “cross dress” (sic) in trousers and other male clothing. Even more even more suprisingly her doll reflected this with masculine attire and cropped hair. It didn’t come with her habitual cigar or either of her “Kens”, the two women Rosa lived with. The last few years of her life were spent living happily with an American protegee many decades her junior, who had a Bonheur doll as a little girl. Is there even a name for the kink of hooking up with the woman you had a doll of as a child? In any case, kudos and massive respect.

So basically I wanted to be one of those artists who has a doll made of them, and clearly I’m not going to wait until a century after I’m dead to get one. I also like obsessive Japanese doll magazines like Dollybird, and quite honestly I could read them all day. Hence the arrival of this 17cm/6.5″ bisque doll of myself. He doesn’t have any clothes yet, but I’m an artist and artists can’t afford clothes because we don’t get paid enough, OK? Or maybe it’s a comment on the extreme exposure of the psyche one undergoes in the course of expressing oneself as an artist, or something. If you have any clothes that might fit a 17cm doll, please send them and I promise the doll will model them .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.