I’ve been reminiscing about Dawn Dolls. They were manufactured for only three years in the early ’70s by Topper. Dawn, Angie, Gary, and company. they were only six-and-a-half inches tall, so they were incompatible with Barbies because they were so small. But they were so pretty with silky long hair and “real” eyelashes, and of course, with very awesome 1970s fashions. I loved them and I love them still.
I’ve been stalking them on the Internet – Ebay, Etsy and Mercari mainly. I don’t really want to buy them, do I? I want to be the Dawn doll. Haven’t I always? So funny that my hair resembles hers now. All I need is an Alice & Olivia dress and I am good to go.
What struck me as I viewed Sharif Bey’s art exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art is that he too seems to be enamored with doll collections albeit his are quite large scale especially the necklaces!
Like Vanessa German’s work and Vanessa Johnson’s too, Bey has added his take on the African experience by way of the doll.
This show is housed in two of the four upstairs galleries and spans the artist’s thirty-year career. I mean, he’s only forty-eight, which indicates that some of the pieces in this collection of works were created when he was only eighteen. It is a lot of work – from functional ceramics to these large figurative pieces and finally the accessory wall. It is incredibly impressive for sure.
These necklaces in particular are really something. In the accompanying pamphlet prepared for a Junteenth visitation, it is revealed that he used toilet paper over glaze in the kiln to manifest the charred pattern on the “beadwork”. It is genius.
The scale speaks volumes about who this man is as an artist and as a human. It is a combo of continued visual exploration and ethnic pride coupled with a desire to both learn and teach.
Bey is a professor at Syracuse University in the Art Education department. The brochure professes to take children on a journey to discover themselves as he serves to explore ideas to carry him on his own path.
The exhibition is titled “Facets”. It works so well here because the Everson has always been first and foremost a ceramics museum. Knowing that these massive pieces are also fragile lends itself well to that idea that we are all fragile beings in a way, always seeking that strength of character in our true identities while harboring thoughts of doubt, worry and stupid fears that can easily break our spirits.
I wonder if that thought crossed his mind? No matter what doll one identifies with – big or small, black or white, etc., etc., we are all that creative spirit looking for a way to connect and feel that blessed feeling of validation as we develop our crafts/psyches in order to continue the ascent through life.
The Everson Museum of Art is located at 401 Harrison Street, Syracuse, NY, 13202. Call (315) 474-6064 for more information or find them at www.everson.org.
Sharif Bey: Facets continues through August 14, 2022.
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