Friday, May 13, 2011

My First Doll Show part 4

"So you're already in the mom's taxi business?  What kind of class does a 2-year-old take?  :-)"

I sent this joking response to a friend’s emailed excuse for not meeting me at the Atlanta Doll Collectors’ annual doll show last Saturday.  Yet Ree's situation reflects the historical challenges women artists have always faced.  Although she has an MA in Cultural Production from Brandeis, for the foreseeable future, most of her creative energy will be invested in raising her daughter.  Thus, while Ree is a full-time mom by choice, it is still no wonder that Virginia Woolf asked in A Room of One’s Own “Why is it that men have always had power and influence and wealth and fame – while women have had nothing but children?”

Fabric, yarn, beads, feathers, and even bits of wire and wood blocks to build stands for dolls are relatively cheap when acquired a few dollars’ worth at a time.  Still, finding the material resources to create art is another challenge that has often kept women and other economically marginalized people from being recognized as serious artists for In the fine art world, there has always been a bias that values art objects more depending on the materials used in their construction.

Yet some artists have been able to transcend such limitations.  William Edmonson, for example, was born the son of formerly enslaved parents in 1870.  He spent most of his life working as a handy man, but in 1932 after his retirement, Jesus “planted the seed of carving in me” so he began carving gravestones, figurative sculptures, and garden ornaments from discarded blocks of limestone.  Normally the tools required to work with such materials are expensive, but Edmonson fashioned chisels from railroad spikes to create his “mirkels.”  Today his works command as much as $25,000 at auction and are among the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s holdings.

Like Edmonson, Martha Dudley distills a lifetime of experience into her intricately embellished, one of a kind soft sculptures.  If good things come to those who wait, then one day when her daughter is older, Ree will be amazing audiences with the power and beauty of her artistic vision and Martha Dudley's work will be featured in galleries and museums.

“I’m just speechless”  -- visitor to Martha Dudley's booth

Fancy Smancy – Martha Dudley

Miss Senior Georgia 2006 has always had a needle in her talented hand.  She made her first dress in home economics class and then worked for a time in a design center.  She is accomplished at embroidery, crochet, and all forms of embellishment, but her beadwork is what makes her dolls "fancy smancy."  Depending on how intricate the design is, Dudley’s one of a kind creations can take up to four months to complete.  The process involves hand dyeing the hair and materials, painting the face, and stitching the beaded details.  “When I get started, it evolves,” she says.  “I have no idea what she’s going to look like.”  Thus Dudley finds deep satisfaction in the joy of seeing the finished doll.  The Fancy Smancy booth attracted so many visitors that I couldn’t get close enough to shoot more pictures.  These fancy smancy art dolls are truly exquisite.

 À Bientôt


  1. What a lovely piece of doll art. What is the price range of Dudley's dolls?


  2. Dear Debbie,

    Glad you like the piece. I was as awestruck as the other visitors to Dudley's booth and didn't think to ask what the price range was but I could email her to ask.