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Just completed a "Crow Spirit" doll in Honor of Jackson Art Center artist LISA NEHER
My first experiences of Lisa Neher
I've been at the Jackson Art Center for almost three years now. Two years ago I moved up to the second floor, from a basement space in the bottom of the turret, to studio 15A. Almost at once I became aware of, Lisa Neher, across the hall in studio 18B, creating her large and exuberant paintings. Her presence was larger than life as was her involvement in the running of the Jackson Art Center. It was always wonderful to know that she was there across the hall from me. Here's Lisa's own experience of painting at the JAC: "Studio 18B is located in the second floor turret room of the old Jackson School. I am there every day during the week, and some weekends. When you're self-employed, you are never off duty. Good thing I love what I do."
Last December, Lisa passed away and in the beginning of January, her family held an informal gathering in memory of her. One of her cousins arranged a series of images of Lisa's paintings into a slide presentation and various people, family and friends, spoke about their memories of her. And at the end, her husband Roger offered some of her paintings to those who had gathered in her memory. I chose the crow painting that you see above.
Lisa and Crows
From talking to various family members and others that knew her, I learned that she had had a fascination with crows. She fed them whenever they came near her house in Falls Church, Virginia. And thus, the crows started to follow her when she went on walks beyond her property. They loved her and she clearly loved them and depicted them in several paintings. I was grateful to be able to have one of these paintings to have in my studio in memory of her.
"Crow Spirit" doll
In gratitude for this gift and also in honor of Lisa's memory, I decided to make a crow spirit doll, inspired by the painting I had been given. I wanted it to be playful and also wanted it to suggest the spiritual connection that Lisa had with crows. I am giving this doll to Lisa's husband.
Sometimes in my work I use animals to represent qualities that I want to embody or that I want my dolls to represent. I looked up the symbolism of crows and found that they are rich in symbolic meaning. Crows are seen as intelligent, far seeing and intuitive. Crow totems have been used by shamanic healers as at the boundary between life and death and are sometimes seen as messagers from beyond. And they are also symbols of transformation. There is also something humourous about crows-they can be playful and appear in Native American stories as tricksters and practical jokers.
In the doll that I made, I gave her wide wings/arms that can hang at her side or can be attached to the side of the head, as if upward about to launch into flight. The two crows stitched on her belly were inspired by the painting of crows that I was given. The red heart symbolizes Lisa's love of crows. The doll has two heads: a woman's head with a tiny mirror attached to her forehead, symbolizing her ability to see intuitively and into the future. The second crow head above the woman's head has a bright and playful expression. The spirals on her legs symbolize magic and universality.
To see more of Lisa's work and read about her, check out her page at the Jackson Art Center.
Other explorations: Inside out Flip Dolls
While I was working on the Revisioning the Flip Doll project over the past two years, I encountered something I hadn't seen before, the "inside out" flip doll. These were dolls that actually fit one inside the other, almost like nesting dolls, instead of being connected at the waist, separated by a skirt. One of the artists I interviewed for my project, Jihee Kang, made playful inside out flip dolls on the theme of "goldfish/sushi" or "womb." I also found a wonderful book, Flip Dolls and Other Toys that Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go by Karen Wilson.
I especially loved her Saint George and the Dragon inside out flip doll and determined that once I was done with the grant project, I was going to make this doll and also try out some of the other ones. Above are the two versions of St. George and the Dragon that I made. It was really fun to do. I plan to also try her superhero inside out flip, but make one of my own design. I highly recommend the book if you like playful things that tweak your imagination.
I wanted also to share an article about the Flip Doll Project with quotes from interviews with some of the N. Street artists, see below.
Right now I am talking to some of the artists about an on-going connection, where I provide them with materials to work with on their own and then meet with them once a month. I want also to explore ways of helping them to sell their dolls. This hasn't all started yet but is in the works.
Save the Date: SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2018
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!