Detail, The Kitchen: black and white doll with speech bubble in background | Maleah Miller
I grew up playing with dolls, and in my current artistic practice, doll-making embodies both the construction and the condensation of personhood. Dolls look like us, but are different enough from us to be a perfect (and sometimes literal) canvas through which we might understand ourselves better. This particular photographed doll, crafted in homage to fiber artist Patti Medaris Culea, is handmade of dyed cotton batik, and her kitchen, a hub of symbolic creation, is built from cardboard, paper, and found antique toys. The black and white color scheme alludes to early silent films and to the stark ink and paper of classic newspaper cartoons, lending an exaggerated, illustrative air to real-life objects. The resulting aesthetic is domestic and surreal, playful and peculiar – an ode to the creative and destructive power of imagination. Each photograph becomes a panel in the final comic page, which I arrange digitally, and together the frames resemble a strip of photographic film, providing glimpses into a constructed life that resembles our own in form as well as feeling.​​​​​​​
Even a perfectly finished comic or sculpture retains marks of its production, with ink strokes and seam lines preserving forever the marks of their makers. This evidence of past creative labor suggests the possibility of future re-creation and destruction, and through this project, I invite the viewer to imagine the ability we all have to craft new versions of ourselves and of the world we share.
The Kitchen | Maleah Miller
Before the coronavirus pandemic, this piece, completed as the capstone project for my BA in Studio Art at Kenyon College, was scheduled to be displayed in the Gund Gallery in Gambier, Ohio in Spring 2020. In its intended form, the final piece would have measured 10' x 4'8". Each panel would have been printed individually on Photo Tex Adhesive Fabric, which would have been applied directly to the wall in Gund Gallery, with the white wall itself comprising the gutter between panels. Though measurements would have varied from panel to panel, the average panel would have been about 1.5' high and, depending on orientation, between 14" and 18" wide. With this application, I hoped to approach the appearance of a wet newspaper plastered against a wall. I wanted to give the photo itself as little body as possible, as newsprint tends to be extremely thin; the images, not the paper itself, would provide visual weight.​​​​​​​
To see the rest of my classmates' remarkable capstone projects, please visit our gallery site.
Detail, The Kitchen: black and white cloth doll with cooking pot | Maleah Miller
Below is a selection of my favorite frames from "The Kitchen."
Ultimately, my hope for The Kitchen is that each viewer takes away something wholly unique. My favorite kinds of stories have endings open to interpretation, and I love to bask in their promise after I've turned the last page, watched the last scene, or merely closed my eyes in the gallery. The story continues! such works seem to whisper, and your imagination is now a part of it! I invite all of your imaginations to populate The Kitchen and to fill the bubbling pot of our world with ingredients only you can supply.
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