Artes y Artesanias

Healing through the Arts

Dreams Deferred

One of my favorite pastimes as a little girl was cutting out paper dolls as Mom visited with her stay-at-home friends.

I particularly remember hours I spent, scissors in hand, seated on the living room floor while she and the woman with whom she shared the first name Virginia played cards and drank coffee at the kitchen table.  Each had eloped with her sweetheart just before his departure for boot camp and their friendship developed working side-by-side in factory jobs that went back to the men upon their return stateside.

Vera Miles Paper Doll page
Vera Miles
1950s
Paper Doll

Ginger RogersStruggles with reverting to the role of a stay-at-home wife figured strongly in the coffee klatch conversations of these young white upwardly mobile working class USAmerican women.  Meanwhile, my own childhood pastimes immersed me in the glamorous wardrobes of the famous movie stars and their fur coats, like the one my Aunty Virg’s husband bought her.  And Ginger Rogers?  Well, she could dance every bit as well as Fred Astaire…..and she did it wearing high heels and going backwards!

Young Dancer Dreaming Mixed Media - Watercolors, Paper cut-out figures, Doll-size plastic shoes, Selected quotes on dance, ribbon, bezels.  Fabric-covered matte
Young Dancer Dreaming
Mixed Media – Watercolors, Paper cut-out figures, Doll-size plastic shoes, Selected quotes on dance, ribbon, bezels. Fabric-covered matte

When it came time for me to embark on my own career path, I hoped to use my skills in speaking French to work in the foreign service.  Maybe I could be a private secretary like the one played by Ann Sothern in the 1950s sitcom “Susie”*.  Still, I followed my Daddy’s advice to get a teaching certificate because “you can always contribute to the family income wherever your husband finds a real job.”

I created this mixed media self-portrait Young Dancer Dreaming nearly fifty years after a teaching career that made it possible for me to support myself wherever I chose to live.  Using skills developed in those childhood hours spent painstakingly cutting around the tabs and on the dotted lines of paper hats and wigs that allowed my paper dolls to change their personalities just by putting on a different costume, it explores the impact of these memories.

*  While writing this blog I found the April 29, 1956 episode entitled “Passing the Buck” (http://bit.ly/1ATY4t8).  It reminds me very much of the way the men and women of my childhood years played out their gender roles  and recalls Mother’s advice to “run your marriage in such a way that your husband thinks he’s in charge.”

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This entry was posted on May 12, 2015 by in Chronicles of an Emerging Artist and tagged , , .
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