My work lies at the crossroads between the past and the present. Through hand sewing, traditional doll making, embroidery, needle felting, and clothing construction I create in the present moment while connecting deeply with all the women and girls who participated in these traditions before me. I make dolls that are expressive in nature and tell the stories of my life. I mix sculpting in clay with artmaking techniques, that would have been considered less than fine art in the not so recent past, to share my experience of being human.
My work is not normally political in nature but the reversal of Roe vs. Wade leaves me dumbfounded. “How could this be?” I wonder. “How is it possible?” I feel rage, I feel horror, I feel numb. I want to cry because it seems that instead of striving to grow closer and more interconnected to one another, more rooted in understanding, our leaders are stuck in selfishness, hate, violence and competition. These qualities do not bring me joy and hope, these qualities do not embody what I represent or hold dear. These qualities do not represent freedom and they do not represent love.
As a woman and a mother I am outraged. I find walking through everyday life while carrying the truths of our time to be a very strange experience, “Why is everyone going on with business as usual when the house is on fire in so many aspects of our lives?” I have expressed my disbelief and my sorrow in this series of dolls. I have embroidered the questions that plague my mind into the pieces themselves. I have tried to express at a core level the question whose answer escapes me the most – “ If my body is not my own to control, am I truly free?”
Is women’s work art? Can doll making be a political act? Yes.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
I am a small scale figurative sculptor and doll maker. I live in the city but escape into nature every chance I get, incorporating the beauty of both of these worlds into my artwork. Rusted metal, broken glass, call to me from the curb of my neighborhood on Buffalo’s West Side. Just as strongly, call the tree roots, seed hulls, rocks, moss and mushrooms found while hiking in the many natural areas around Western NY. Everything is dragged back to my studio and used in my art making process.
Formerly a maker of children’s dolls, my fine art has grown out of this practice and is still evolving. I have been making dolls since I was old enough to use scissors and glue, probably around age 4. I made dolls to inhabit my imaginary world with objects I could find around the house and in my backyard. At age 52 I am still playing with dolls and prefer to inhabit my inner world much of the time.
My father was a figurative sculptor. He chiseled into large pieces of wood and stone in the backyard and his life size figures loomed large inside our home. I fed them raisins and soaked up their emotional content unknowingly. I grew up in a world where the human figure was used to tell my father’s story and I continue to carry forth this legacy in my own artwork today.
Expressing the experiences and struggles of the human journey is what I am called to do. I document my story of becoming and the constant cycle of growth and transformation. I would say that I live more deeply from a heart centered and feeling place than an intellectual one and am able to express myself and understand the world through images more than text. Archetypes, symbols, textures, colors and the way experiences feel speak deeply to me.
I became reacquainted with fairy tales as an adult during years spent as a Waldorf Early Childhood teacher and see the truths of these stories as a mirror of the human journey of becoming and the struggle toward self actualization. This is the underlying theme of my art. I am also exploring ideas on intergenerational trauma, interconnection with nature and separation as an illusion.
My art studio is located within Buffalo Arts Studio which is home to a community of 30 artists and two art galleries. Since leaving teaching in 2020 to focus on artmaking, I have exhibited at The Gallery at Dunede and Buffalo Arts Studio. I am a member of Hallwalls Buffalo and The Buffalo Society of Artists.
© Rebecca Schwarzberg