Art for the Cash Poor 2016 is more than an art fair. AFTCP invites attendees to navigate the Crane Arts space, bursting with art vendors, live musical performances, culinary curiosities, and an outdoor beer garden. First-time collectors find their niche within the arts scene, thanks to a range of price points and artistic mediums.
Torie Senseny‘s niche is childhood, where the worlds of fantasy and plastic dreamscapes collide. She reshapes Barbie doll parts and other toys into mythological figures, sculpting the heroic out of the everyday. The recent Moore grad will be building her magic into a booth at Art for the Cash Pooor, but she let us in on some of the secrets of her process in an interview below.
Erica: Tell me about your arts background.
Torie: I come from a family of academics: teachers, lawyers, social workers, scientists, etc. I was the oddball or at least felt like one in my family. My mom took me to the PMA several times. I always drew and took private art classes, but never really thought of becoming an artist after my high school education was through. It wasn’t until sophomore year that one of my art teachers made a comment to me that I had a natural talent in sculpture. So when I applied to Moore College of Art and Design, I had every attention without fully knowing how much I would fall in love with it.
Erica: I’ve noticed a few artists in the area beginning to experiment with Barbie dolls and their accessories as a medium. As one of them, would you say there’s a reason for this trend in redefining childhood objects?
Torie: I’m sure in part my draw to Barbies, Monster High dolls, or what have you, is due to being prohibited from having dolls as a child, most likely due to the message it sends to young girls. Now as an adult, I’m not held back by that restriction. Also seeing a YouTube video of a woman in the U.K. removing the original paint with nail polish remover and painting on a more natural face; my reaction of “I really want to try that!” is what initially started the exploration of Barbies. Yes, seeing the numerous amount of artists exploring the same trend on Instagram helped inspire me too. Noel Cruz in particular. However, it appeared that no one was altering/redoing Barbie’s unrealistic body shape.
I’ve also never taken a figurative sculpture class and wanted to teach myself how to do so using Barbie as an armature. It got me wondering if there was a way to adhere clay to plastic. So at first, I tried air-dry clay which failed miserably, no matter what I did. Then I started researching online to see if polymer clay would work without using an oven (Barbie…plastic.. Hot oven…eeeeh). Though there aren’t that many blogs or discussions about being able to so, using boiling water seemed to give me some leeway. This was last November and I’ve been pushing myself to find new ways to deconstruct and reconstruct two of Mattel’s doll series.
As far as a reason for redefining childhood toys, I can’t speak for everyone in the scene. I could give a Marcel Duchamp and his “Ready-Mades”. It was all about the idea of the original objects or the fact that he didn’t construct or forge the objects. Nonetheless, my generation’s toys are the perfect scale to do it at home and it doesn’t take up that much space. They are also discarded at thrift stores and repainting or whatnot brings them new life and hopefully a way not to be overlooked. But they are also at a perfect scale that repainting them is a challenge. Perhaps the reasoning comes from customizing the childhood you wished you had, but perhaps wouldn’t have fully appreciated. I’m not sure.
Erica: You’re a fairly recent grad from Moore. How did you go about defining your path in the local arts scene after graduation?
Torie: It has been quite the journey. From the ideas that motivated my senior thesis work in 2008, to that realization of not having access to the same tools and space, to my first doll series, the Dawn Conquerors in 2012, it’s extremely different to art that I do now. There was a four year period after graduation that I had no idea where my path was going. When I was getting close to turning 25, I thought I wanted to do jewelry. I must have checked out every book the library had on the topic to teach myself the history. I also took two continuing education classes at UArts. It wasn’t until I discovered Italian artist, Eliza Bolli’s work on etsy that I realized I wanted to work in clay again and I wanted to create dolls. Bolli’s dolls are mostly bat-like creatures and she uses found objects and fabric from antique and thrift stores. However, I wanted dolls that didn’t have limbs. Not for any “dark” undertones, but to have the focus on the details put into the head. Also I was particularly fond of the silent invitation to play with dolls because they have limbs or that dolls need to have them to be defined as one. My first three doll series were created with that in mind.
Erica: Aside from childhood, your art also draws from myth and fable to tell a new story through your figures. Why such a focus on the darker creatures of myth – like the mermaids, the succubae, etc?
Torie: I’ve heard this a lot throughout the past four years and I’ve never considered my work to take a darker side of mythology and fables. I don’t believe it’s any darker than what nature already provides us with. I didn’t like the idea of having to discard my child-like imagination or wanting to believe that there are more fantastical things in the world beyond scientific reasoning just because I’m an adult. I grew up having a teacher as a mother and being read stories of Greek/Roman mythology, fables, and books like C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and all of Beatrix Potter’s work. I also favored television shows like Xena, the Warrior Princess and Hercules.
Erica: Art makes one of the best gifts you can give to loved ones – as it’s irreplaceable as they are. If you could choose a work by a local artist to give as a gift to a friend, whose would it be and why?
Torie: There are so many wonderful local artists that it would be hard to choose just one. My top three are Jes Mae Lynch, Peet Sketches, Megan Uhaze. Not only because they have been my friends for many years, but also because I’ve been able to witness the development and changes of their work throughout the years.
Erica: What are you looking forward to most about participating in Art for the Cash Poor?
Torie: I’ve always enjoyed watching and listening to people’s initial reactions or thoughts about my work. This will be the second time that my latest doll series will be seen in the public eye. I’m also looking forward to the diversity of artists each year.
Art for the Cash Poor 2016 is June 3 – 5 at Crane Arts, with a Kickoff Party Friday, June 3, 5:30 – 9 pm that doubles as a fundraiser for the AIDS Fund. Tickets for the Kickoff can be purchased here. The weekend event is free and open to the public and runs Saturday and Sunday, June 4 – 5, noon – 6 pm.