My performance takes the form of a lived practice. It disrupts expectations of gender, sexuality, art objecthood, and activism by creating unlikely affinities that cross social and cultural boundaries. I am invested in blurring—or illuminating what was always already blurred in—ideological organizations of power relations between victim and victimizer, autonomy and dependency, consumer and commodity. These investigations take up unresolved questions in contemporary feminism, specifically the embedded 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 performance—the Amber Doll Project—that 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 in my practice, 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 psychology. In response, I transmogrified Amber Doll into a replica of Tilikum in Amber Doll > TILIKUM (2011-2012) as the first of what has become my alchemic performances turning lifelike silicone dolls into models of captive marine mammals. The performance exposed the interrelatedness of control and resistance, captivity and freedom by pushing and pulling at the violence of visual spectacle.

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 Nabokov’s novel. The project was commissioned and made possible by each doll’s partner: synthetics advocate and doll husband Davecat, and anonymous doll owner Jesse. During the performance, Davecat read from Nabokov’s Lolita and Jesse described the secret room he built to house his 1998 model doll, Heather, for 15 years; members of the doll and marine mammal activist communities participated remotely. LOLITA cast a glaring light on the problematic fluidity between the perception of a seductive body and the body in undeniable captivity—and marking a body as “seductive” to erase its “captive” status. In addition to reacting against the brutality of Lolita’s long-term confinement and exploitation, the project posed broader feminist questions about surrogacy, domination, and enclosure via the suture of doll, female, and whale bodies.

Over the seven consecutive days of Doll Closet (2014), I constructed a replica of the hidden room Jesse built in his home, where he secretly kept Heather before donating her body to LOLITA. The pieces of Heather left over from LOLITA were present to witness the reconstruction. Between his factory shifts, Jesse called in to the performance each day to provide guidance on manual operations and discuss both his relationship to a transfeminine spectrum and Heather’s role as a gender surrogate and psychic prosthetic. Having grown up spending one half of each week in a working class neighborhood and the other in a middle class neighborhood in a small Midwestern town similar to the one where Jesse currently lives, I and Jesse connected over our shared embodied experience of classed closetedness while also making legible to one another the skills we acquired through being conditioned as the genders we were assigned at birth. Doll Closet explored the worldmaking involved in keeping secrets and asked what kinds of intimacies, relations, and unanticipated connections flourish in secrecy. 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 while engaging physical work to unlock psychic intellectual discourse.

Drawing on my experience as a registered carousel operator in the state of New York between 2014 and 2018, I created a full-size wooden carousel mount in the likeness of Dottie, a ten-year-old silicone doll originally owned by a Disney World Imagineer. Dottie is now in the shared custody of two doll owners who met online. “Incred” and “Camp” discovered they live only nineteen miles apart, and combined their doll collection in a basement modeled after the set of Gilligan’s Island with its desert island fantasies of solitude and intimacy. My sculpture and performance were a portrait of Dottie, the two men’s joint custody of her, and their relationship to and through Dottie. In Dottie (2015-2017), the doll, like the carousel horse, was offered as a captive instrument of play and surrogacy.

For DOLLY / PETER (2018) I sculpted a replica combining the likenesses of two dolphins who lived in captivity in the 1960s and ’70s—Dolly, who was captive in Floridaland (Sarasota, FL) and Peter, who was captive in the NASA-funded Dolphin House (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.). Both Dolly and Peter experienced complex affective relationships with humans before voluntarily choosing to stop breathing. During the performance, I engaged discourses about animacy and animal intimacy and attempted to contact descendants of Dolly and Peter’s captors. DOLLY / PETER continued my exploration of the troublingly fluid interchange between seduction, captivity, and captivation developed in my previous performances.

My long-time collaborator Davecat and I are currently in the research phase of Fair, Medium, Light Tan, Tanned, Cocoa (F.M.LT.T.C) which begins to address how the racial other is discussed in the doll world as well as how fetish functions more generally within systemic oppression. In addition to investigating raciality in the doll world from factory to forum, the project continues my ongoing exploration of silicone dolls’ material capacities for synthesis and salvation—that is, the personal and political promise of the copy.