In Focus: Dollatry

What is a doll? This course offers students an extended opportunity to explore this deceptively simple question, as they collaborate with the instructor—and with one another—in the ongoing development of Dollatry, the Focus Project exhibition opening at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in February 2025. Spanning the gallery’s first and second floors, the exhibition will revolve around the core concept of likeness. Its displays—a number of them interactive— will invite visitors to consider not only what it means to be a doll, but how and why dolls are designed to be “like” humans. How do dolls mediate and modify human likeness through their materials and design? What do dolls tell us about our image(s) of self and other, both historically and today? And finally, why are the likenesses that dolls present important to us? Why do we need dolls, and what do they do for us?

Coursework will comprise researching, workshopping, and writing about objects in the exhibition’s three galleries: “Nothing But a DOLL!” (exploring the essential nature of the doll through materials and design); “The Dressing Room” (focusing on dolls as vehicles of fashion, and constructors of self); and “The Nursery” (an immersive, artist-designed installation intended to challenge our definitions of “doll play,” its participants, and benefits). Guest classes will be conducted by visiting artists, doll designers, and scholars involved in the exhibition, and we will take a “research trip” to Manhattan’s American Girl flagship store! 3 credits.