Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Villa Terrace: "Enchanted Doll"

The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is another one of Milwaukee's
stately homes, this one having been built by Lloyd Smith of the "A.O.
Smith" manufacturing family. An Italianate villa, it perches on the
bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, with classical gardens tiered down the
slope to the lake level.

Again, well worth seeing on its own, the home preserves a quantity of
the family's art and furniture collections, as well as special exhibits.

We visited Easter Sunday to see the newly opened "Marina Bychkova:
Enchanted Doll" exhibition. The show notes say: "Influenced by
traditional Russian and European folktales, Russian artist Marina
Bychova's handcrafted dolls are suffused with an uncanny eroticism that
comments on fable, fantasy and the cultural roll of dolls."
Indeed. However, the fact that the dolls happen to be anatomically
correct (or as much so as jointed dolls can be), that is the least of
the things that set them apart from your Barbie doll. The dolls tend to
roughly fall into the Barbie or Dollfie ball-jointed-doll size range,
but they are all individuals, hand-made by the artist from porcelain.
Bychova is an amazing sculptor, since the doll faces are all different
and have personality. In addition to the vibrant faces, she has added
very realistic hair, and has experimented with skin effects including
scars, tattoos, and henna designs.
Although some of the dolls are nudes, massive amounts of work have gone
into the costumes for others. Not only is the clothing exquisitely sewn,
with fabric patterns custom dyed by the artist, most incorporate beading
or other decoration: some have thousands of beads, hundreds of pearls,
or dozens of real gemstones. To her other skills Ms. Bychova adds
jewelry making, so the costumes where appropriate incorporate crowns,
headdresses, bangles, and other parts cast of silver, copper, or bronze.
Although many of the dolls are based on fairy-tale characters, such as
Cinderella, Scherezade, and the Little Mermaid, this is definitely a
show for adults. Nowhere is this better shown than in the diptych based
on Snow White, called "Necrophilia." (The artist notes, "What would
possess a man to kiss a dead woman he found in a glass casket in the
forest?") The avid looking prince, his lips subtly smeared with blood,
crouches over the woman's body, her livid skin marked with bruises on
her chest and throat--.
Ms. Bychova declares in her notes to the exhibit that her intention is
to bring dolls into the world of fine art: we would say she has
I would strongly recommend this exhibit to anyone in the area interested
in dolls, sculpture, jewelry, sewing, or costumes, taking into account
the "adult content."
Villa Terrace website:
Marina Bychova's website (many pictures):
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