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DESERT EXPOSURE

FEBRUARY 2019 • 17

CARNEY FOY, CPA CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT P.O. Box 2331 212 N. Arizona Street Silver City, NM 88062

(575) 388-3111 (575) 388-2770 carneyfoy@qwestoffice.net

Paper plans for a journey by journal artist Sara Austin. (Courtesy Photo)

ARTS EXPOSURE • ELVA K. ÖSTERREICH

‘Parts of Self’

Dolls connect artist back to childhood and those she loved

O

nce upon a time, artist Sara Austin got a bit tired of painting and made some dolls for a break from that medium. Then one day, she and her friend went for a walk with the dolls and found a little store called Wild Fiber in Santa Monica, California. The owner who ran Wild Fiber asked to put Sara’s dolls in a case in her store, and there they drew interest from far and wide. Then the owner asked if she would teach people about doll making and “before you know it I was being asked to teach all along the California coast,” Sara said. “It was so fun,” she said. “And they all sold (from the case).” All that began in 1990. Most of her dolls were made two decades ago, before she moved on to participate in a fiber program in Long Beach and began to do whole installation work, eventually getting a degree in sculptured installation. “Further along into making these, the dolls/figures started to become less doll-like and more about pushing the boundaries of what is a doll,” Sara said. “Working with sculpture, environments and installation, I started working out ideas for new work with paper collage. The collage became work that stood on its own and I ended up making dolls that had elements of books or journals with more writing involved.” Today, after much moving around and growing her life, Sara lives in Las Cruces, creating a different sort of art involving self-portrait images with themes about aging. But it is Sara’s dolls that speak out starting this weekend at the Rokoko Gallery. The exhibit is titled “Parts of Self,” and reflects Sara’s life and those who are important to her. An artist’s reception takes place from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the gallery, 1785 Avenida de Mercado. “[This show] is my past, a bit biographical,” she said. “It’s like a retrospective of my history.”

The dolls reflect Sara’s heart from early in her life. “I remembered a doll I once had,” Sara wrote in a statement. “Being a curious child, I had to look under her scarf to see if she had hair. It upset me to see there was no hair. And so, with my figures the surfaces, front, back, face, feet, hands – from every point of view the doll had to be complete, whole, honest and with strong structure.” And she gave them all plenty of hair, made from yarn or torn rags and obsessively tied to the head. They all had their stories, and soon these figures became personal stories about Sara’s own life. “When I was just a little girl, three of us were running around the yard and the boys took their shirts off but I was told I can’t take my shirt off,” she said. Not understanding, she caused a fuss and her dad bribed her, giving her a bride doll. After that, when Sara caused a fuss, her mom told her, “Oh, forget about it, it will all go away when you get married.” Sara began making dolls and created an entire series of dolls called “The Bride Series,” followed by another project called “Bride in a Box.” She created four “Angela” dolls, named after somebody she had been close to when she lived in Virginia prior to California. “It helped me cope with the loss,” she said. “It helped me feel still connected. Dolls have that power, they keep you connected.” She made a doll for her mother who was dying. “I made her a doll with her face and clothes made of fabrics and colors she would love,” Sara said. “I gave it to her and she held it and slept with it.” The work that comprises “Parts of Self” is exceedingly personal, she said. But the more personal the dolls and her work may be, the more universal they become. Since making her dolls, Sara

has progressed through other forms of art making. She learned to crochet following her divorce, using the yarn work as a calming tool. She dyed her own yarn and created three-dimensional containers with wool. Today she has turned to photos, self-portraits, that become something else with the intertwining of other materials. But the dolls, on display through Feb. 23, take her back to childhood and those whom she loved the most.

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