Text And Interview: Monica Uszerowicz
Photos: Olimpia Dior
The work of multimedia artist Claire Christerson is known for its dynamism—both her solo projects and her collaborations with friends like Mike Bailey-Gates, India Menuez, and Alexandra Marzella. Her videos, especially, and the colors, movement, humor, range of characters therein—all equally playful and empowered—embody a vibrancy you’ll find in other parts of her practice, even her drawings. Even given the range of media in which Christerson dabbles, there’s a hands-on physicality to her practice, evidenced in her collaborative performances or her hand-painted dolls.
The dolls in particular—bejeweled, eyeball-flecked, winged or striped or covered in layers of thick color—seem drawn directly from Christerson’s subconscious. And they are: they’re a profoundly personal component of her practice, reflecting the experiences of her childhood and references to archetypal, fairy-tale symbolism. We spoke to her about these special characters and where they come from.
Please tell me about the origin of the dolls—when you started working on them and how. Where did they come from, so to speak?
They began three years ago because I wanted to make a miniature version of a character that Mike and I had made a photograph of. I wanted to just make it as a surprise for him. After I made that character, it really sparked something and I got more interested in making new characters. The next doll that I made was called Lizzy. Ever since then, it’s become a big part of what I do. Making these dolls has become a therapy in a way, and also I just like making things. I especially enjoy making these dolls to give to people. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been extremely attached to dolls. Now I really enjoy sort of playing mad scientist and making new creations. I’m interested in taking things apart, making new parts, and then reconfiguring.
You’ve mentioned that they’re a deeply personal part of your work. Will you say more about this?
They are personal for me because they take a long time. I have to really think about them, especially when I am making a doll for someone. I have to think about the person I’m making this object for because I want it to embody their personality. Then some of the other dolls I make come from characters I have drawn up. Some of these dolls reflect happier sides of me and others reflect a darker experience. I also try really hard to never repeat a character, so of course it takes some time as I’m thinking about newer personalities and characters constantly.
I noticed they’re included in pieces like Forest Thoughts. Though the dolls seem to occupy their own specific world, how do they intersect with other facets of your practice?
“Forest Thoughts” is not so much a piece, but a collection of ideas. A lot of the new work I’ve been making references nature and forests, and symbols from fairy tales relating to forests. Baba Yaga has a been an inspiring figure to me for the past two years. Some of my dolls are creatures that I envision living in forests. Actually, a drawing I did recently inspired a photograph that I made, which included dolls that I created to look like the characters in the drawing. It’s all a bit intertwined, with overlapping themes.
I'm interested in taking things apart, making new parts, and then reconfiguring.