My performance takes the form of a lived practice. It disrupts expectations of gender, sexuality, art objects, and activism by creating unlikely affinities that cross social and cultural boundaries. I am invested in blurringor illuminating what was always already blurred inideological organizations of power relations between between victim and victimizer, autonomy and dependency, consumer and commodity. These investigations take up unresolved questions of contemporary feminism, specifically the embedded ideological and psychoanalytic frames that animate subject-object relations. They also make visible the invisible policing that happens at the edges of the mainstream, and question and complicate the complicity of the viewer.
I make sculptures often through performative processes and performances. My work is premised on an economy of affect and grapples with what is narrativized in psychoanalysis as a debt of object choice: the attempt to fill deficits of love with desire. I have literalized these ideas in my involvement with a community that owns or desires life-sized silicone dolls and presents as hetero-outsider. I joined the doll community when I acknowledged my failed attempts to date organic women and created Amber Doll, a life-sized doll made in my likeness using a digital scan of my face. Amber Doll was my artistic and romantic companion for five years. During that time, our life was a collaborative performanceThe Amber Doll Projectthat questioned the role of the surrogate / psychic prosthetic and the dynamics of desire. My work with the doll community has since dealt with how the psychological debt of love animates us in a social-emotional economy.
At a turning point, media coverage about a bull orca named Tilikum, who lived in captivity at SeaWorld and was involved in three human deaths, opened a way for me to explore trans species theory. In response, I transmogrified Amber Doll into a replica of Tilikum in Amber Doll > TILIKUM (2011-12) the first of what has become my alchemic performances turning lifelike silicone dolls into models of captive whales. The performance drew an online audience of 33,000.
In Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA (2013) I dismantled two donated dolls and combined their bodies into a replica of Lolita, the oldest orca in captivity, named after the protagonist of Nabokovs novel. The project was commissioned and made possible by each dolls partner: synthetics advocate and doll husband Davecat, and Jesse. During Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA Davecat read from Lolita and Jesse described the secret room he built to house Heather for 15 years. LOLITA cast a glaring light on the problematic fluidity between the perception of a seductive body and the body in undeniable captivitymarking a body as seductive to erase its captive status. The performance drew an online audience of 47,000.
For Doll Closet (2014) Jesse called-in during select hours of each day to provide guidance on building a replica of the secret room he built to house Heather and to discuss both his relationship to a transfeminine spectrum and Heathers role as a gender surrogate. Doll Closet provided the imperative means for Jesse to speak both publicly and anonymously. In doing so, the performance explored how the interior space of the closet can be rendered as both capacious and collective.
I recently created a full-size wooden carousel mount in the likeness of Dottie, a ten-year-old RealDoll originally owned by a Disneyworld Imagineer. Dottie is now in the shared custody of two doll owners who met online, discovered they live only nineteen miles apart, and combined their doll collection in a basement. My sculpture and performance are a portrait of Dottie, the two mens joint custody of her, and their relationship to and through Dottie. In DOTTIE (2015-2017) the doll, like the carousel horse, is offered as a captive instrument of play and surrogacy.
For my forthcoming DOLLY (Summer 2018) I will produce a replica of Dolly, a dolphin who lived in captivity at Floridaland during the 1960s-70s. I will construct my doll version of Dolly while simultaneously receiving call-ins from descendants of Dollys captors and anonymous doll owner Mahtek. We will pursue dialogues about animacy and animal intimacy as I create my replica using a silicone mold-based process similar to the one used for my original Amber Doll. DOLLY will be be the seventh in my series of durational performances involving practices of training, captivity, and intimate replication.
I am in the research phase of two projects marking the beginning of new lines of inquiry. Fair, Medium, Light Tan, Tanned, Cocoa (F.M.LT.T.C) and SIXTEEN. F.M.LT.T.C. begins to address how the racial other is discussed in the doll worldas well as how fetishes function more generally in oppressionand continues the collaboration I began with Davecat in 2013. SIXTEEN involves the building of a DIY silicone doll using a plaster mold I created of my face in a high school art course while living in a working class neighborhood in a Midwestern townthe population of which has recently been of political focus having voted Republican in the 2016 election after having voted Democratic in the majority of elections in the last decade. F.M.LT.T.C and SIXTEEN continue my ongoing exploration of silicone dolls material capacities for synthesis and salvationthat is, the personal and political promise and mimesis of the copy.