- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - Trust and surrender.

Those are two of the most difficult things to ask someone to do. Particularly when it comes to something about which they care. Especially when it comes to something they created.

Nevertheless, trust and surrender is exactly what the artists who participated in the Beckley Art Center’s “Journal of the Art Doll” project were forced to do.

For six months, 22 artists collaborated to create and build 12 dolls.

The project began in April, when the artists were tasked with taking a blank doll form and designing it based upon their own imaginations. After an allotted time, the dolls were passed on to another artist who added his or her own touches, sometimes keeping with the original theme and sometimes taking it in another direction. In addition to the design, each artist made journal entries, telling the stories they envisioned for the dolls.

Artist Peggy Debnam explained the evolution of Reah-Sycle, a doll that started off with colorful wire hair.

“The next artist took it, named it Razzle Dazzle and dressed it up as a dancer and wrote that the doll now lives on the moon dancing with all the stars and the constellations,” Debnam said. “Then the next artist took her, put on pantaloons, satin panties and puff sleeves. She put on more facial features, fluffed up her eyes and put earrings on her.”

Finally, Debnam said, the doll returned to its recycling roots with a pink fan made from a copy of The Register-Herald’s breast cancer coverage on Dancing With the Stars contestant Anastasia Morton placed in its hand.

“She (the final artist) said we need to do something with Dancing with the Stars,” Debnam said, explaining that idea was intended to play off of Razzle Dazzle’s habit of dancing on the moon. “The newspaper fan brought her back to the original Reah-Sycle.

“Each person’s take on her was different.”

Another doll, Suzanne, was named after what one of the artists said she would have named her second daughter if she had had one.

Suzanne, Debnam said, is a southern belle, equipped with her very own hoop skirt. When Debnam got the doll, she decided her story should continue past the debutante stage and into the real world.

“Suzanne went to Mary Baldwin College and became a teacher,” she said, adding the doll moved to Bedford with her college roommate and best friend, Missy. “She loves her garden and has a basket of vegetables.”

The project, which is a fundraiser for Beckley Arts Center, was the idea of gallery manager Jim Cox, who learned about a similar nationwide project, The Art Doll Chronicles.

“I had seen the project several years ago and was really fascinated by it because of the fact that the dolls, when they were finished, were completely different from when they started out,” Cox said. “The dolls traveled all over the country to different artists, and it really was a project of trust and surrender because they had to give up that doll and trust the artist who got it next would do well with it.

“Most artists, I think, feel that no one else can share his or her exact vision about that piece,” he explained. “You just have to trust the next person to do the best that they can.”

After six months of work, the dolls were completed. They are being displayed at the Beckley Arts Center on Johnstown Road until Dec. 11, when they will be auctioned off at a special reception.

Because this is the first year for what the group hopes will become an annual event, no monetary goal has been set for the auction.

Whatever money is raised, however, will go directly to helping the center accomplish its mission of reaching out to the community and offering educational opportunities through art classes.

Debnam said the gallery is a good place to view the dolls and to even learn more about the project and the dolls’ stories from the artists themselves.

“We want people to see the creativity and read the journals,” she said. “We want to them to learn their stories and maybe continue the journal of the art doll.”

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com


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