Story: Dollhouse

I am thirteen. Sitting across the room from me on the red upholstered Queen Anne chair, with both feet on the floor, my Dad is crying, not sobbing exactly, just one wet line running down each cheek. More like a question aimed into the silence, he says to Mom “Baby, we pull together, we can be alright.” Daggers of sunlight crosscut the room. By morning he is gone to St Petersburg, Florida. I don’t hear from him for eight years. And so my life with Mom, a single mom, begins.

Fifty years later I make Dollhouse, twenty-two empty rooms all shot through with shards and blasts of light and my old family photographs on walls stained with the patina of time. The past is present in these images through memory, and the future is present too, through imagination. Past and future conflate into single image/moments, each one now stored away as bright dark memories.

Art critic Heather Spencer wrote, “These rooms are like chambers of the mind, where memories and feelings are housed in an abstract labyrinth of associations. The experience is real, the nostalgia evoked is felt. The meaning of this place reaches us somewhere other than in our immediate, rational consciousness. The experience of place, the emotions, memories, and intangible sensations evoked by this place are what give it a distinct presence.”

People sometimes ask me, “Where is this house?” I always answer Long Beach, California, because it is there. Also true, it really is a dollhouse. No one gets that right away. To me it is real.

Dollhouse is first published in the fine art photography journal Eyemazing in 2006 and then solos at the George Billis Los Angeles Gallery in 2007. That year Drew Barrymore becomes one of my collectors. Dollhouse solos again at the Leu Center for the Visual Arts in 2009. It continues to place in group shows around the world curated by among others: Malcolm Daniel, the Curator of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Carol McCusker, the Director of the Museum of Photographic Arts; Arthur Ollman, the Director Emeritus of the Museum of Photographic Arts; and J. Richard Gruber, the Director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Several pieces are included in two museum permanent collections.

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