Elizabeth Coleman

Sleeping Butter
porcelain, cast crystal
5 x 12 x 4 in.

I come from a long line of artists. My great-grandmother made quilts and crocheted enough dollies for all of Licking Co., Ohio. From one grandmother, a domestic servant turned farm wife, I learned the art of decapitating, plucking, disemboweling, and frying chickens (in one afternoon, of course). Another grandmother sewed most of my dresses and taught me the secret of waiting patiently. And her beauty queen turned homemaker daughter taught me how to iron (at age 8), how to dry flowers, and how to make perfect hospital corners. She enrolled me in special art classes and in 4H, and taught me how to work to deadline: she transformed our house each year from normal to Crazy Christmas wonderland in only the two days after Thanksgiving.

“I’m telling stories. Trust me.”

Did you know Barbara married Dracula even though he punched her four days before the wedding? She’d objected to the stripper at his bachelor party. You know, he’d told her his name was Waldo. Poor, poor Barbie. She’d thought he was just a night owl.

Don’t believe that one.

At the core of my work is the desire to both reveal and conceal familial selves, housed/sheltered in various bodies, be they architectural, corporal, or that meeting ground between the human and its abstraction – the doll.

This is a toy story, of sorts. Like Hans Christian Anderson’s Steadfast Tin Soldier or Disney’s modern-day film, I imagine that the figurines and dolls that I make have a life of their own. They are, of course, reflections of ourselves, of our culture’s narratives and obsessions, our “other” selves. They are produced by and produce us.

Frozen, how will they gesture to us? Voiceless, how will they tell us what they’ve seen? Unlike the soldier transformed into something else entirely, they are more solid and permanent. And unchanging. A record of these objects’ history is now showing on the surface. It’s written on the body, if you will. Or the body’s substitute, the self as/and other.

© Elizabeth Coleman