|Mark Dennis: Labors of Love|
|Friday, 01 February 2008 00:00|
DOLLS: Describe the choice of theme for this line of dolls. What drew you—a free Northern white man of the 21st century—to represent the African-American experience of pre-Civil War Southern slave laborers?
I feel connected to the people who do physical labor on a daily basis. Instead of doing a pretty woman or a baby, I wanted to portray the common people who built and still support this country. I chose the jobs I know about from my connection to the land and living with these folks in my community.
I started with the premise of slave laborers, but they quickly outgrew this constraint. These people could be pre-Civil War slaves, 1950s sustenance farmers of my hometown or the Amish living next door today. The connection is still there. The daily wear on the mind and body is universal. As I get older and the years of physical labor take their toll on my own body, I feel a deeper connection to these people who did what they had to, even rejoiced in the daily grind of it, to feed their families in the hope that their sons and daughters would have a better life. We have all had mothers, fathers and grandparents. Some we did not know; some we know intimately. These are the people who make up my art. My hope is that each person will see beyond the skin and time to view the universal theme in each doll.
DOLLS: What was the artistic process involved in the dolls’ creation?
My main goal is to capture movement in my work. For instance, in “The Master’s Voice,” she turns from her work as if she is hearing a voice above and to the side. Perhaps it is the farm owner as he rides up alongside her or it is the voice of God as she feels his presence beside her. “One at a Time” is a study of how the body ages with all the changes to posture as time and pain take their toll. Separating one kernel of corn from the next gets harder as the hands age, but he has done it for so long it is as if the kernels do it themselves. Even a doll that is standing still has potential energy or is capable of reflecting the moment of rest after exertion as with the “Washer Woman” who takes a break from cleaning floors.
DOLLS: The line is available exclusively from The Toy Shoppe in Richmond, Va. Are you planning any new exclusive lines?
DOLLS: Do you like working with a theme to create several dolls that revolve around that central concept, or do you prefer to freely create individual pieces as the artistic “whim” takes you?
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