In “Days of Perky Pat,” Phillip K. Dick comments on the 10-inch doll phenomenon by having adults play to quell the longing for the luxurious life they lead prior to World War III. Ultimately the winners of the game are the ones most practiced in the art of self-delusion. I don’t know if I agree with that. Dolls or action figures they’re the same thing; a plaything with the fantasy of control. They’re an important part of growing up and learning empathy and practical imagination. Barbie and G.I. Joe in some form are going to exist no matter how progressive society becomes. For me Sir Gordon and his horse Bravo were my introduction to Tolkien. I even made a Tolkien style barrow for him when I was transitioning from playing to architectural models. It’s probably still out there waiting for some puzzled archeologist to excavate.
Sir Gordon and Bravo cost about three hundred dollars now. That’s way out of my budget even if he does have all the cool armor that I think my Mom confiscated so my brother wouldn’t eat them and choke. Maybe that’s why I was so amazed to read that people are paying $5,000 to $45,000 for just one of Marina Bychkova’s “Enchanted Dolls.” These aren’t your kid sister’s Barbie. They’re finely crafted porcelain figures with a waiting list of two to three years between order and production. They’re unquestionably fetish items but they’re also exquisite art. If I had $6,000 to invest I’d buy one without hesitation. I’m not sure exactly what I’d do with one but any object that beautiful deserves to be admired. I’m also sure the value of these dolls are going to appreciate wildly the more aware the art world becomes of them.
Marina says that some of her earliest memories were of beautiful dolls that didn’t exist anywhere in her head. Most dolls are happy or expressionless in her quest for perfection and art Marina has given her dolls attributes that are not traditionally associated with dolls giving them a dimension beyond toys. Marina says, “It was all about thinking, challenging accepted notions of art, channeling creative impulses into unconventional ways of expression and developing creative thought process. It was very frustrating at the time because a lot of the time I felt that I wasn’t achieving anything significant. It was all scattered and all over the place. It’s only now becoming apparent how much I actually learned. My dolls wouldn’t be the same today if I hadn’t gotten art education.” Marina’s dolls have genitals, nipples, tattoos and even bite marks but what these things really are is a narrative just like the finest kind of art.
If you get an opportunity go to Enchanted Doll and watch Marina manipulate her dolls. It’s not playing with them, it’s an exploration of intriguing possibilities. She’s gone to incredible lengths to develop highly articulated joints. Watching the Enchanted Dolls moving I kept on thinking they’d be just as elegant full sized. In fact I was thinking about clunky C-3PO and how much more likely Queen Amidala would have a droid that looked like and Enchanted Doll. They certainly would have matched the Amidala costumes designed by Trisha Biggar better. Marina doesn’t actually play with her dolls. Like Phillip K Dick she speculates that: “adults who continue to play with dolls must have some psychological ‘deficiencies’ such as malformed identity, and still require dolls to compensate for those.” She goes on to state that she has a need to make dolls, to construct her identity with the dolls she makes and that’s a psychological issue too.
I’m not a psychiatrist but I think they’re learning tools that stimulate and inspire the perception of beautiful things. Incorporating beauty into our lives only makes them better even if it’s ten inch tall doll.