They're protagonists in horror movies. Little brothers pull their heads off to make sisters scream. Bitter enemies burn them in effigy. And then there are the inflatable kind. The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's current exhibit, "Dolls Now," thankfully leaves out the latter type, although we wouldn't put it past the members of the Texas Association of Original Doll Artists (also known as TAODA) to owning adults-only dolls here or there--or making one for that matter. Is there an artist-type creepier than a doll-maker? The sculptures on display range from realism to fantasy, classical to spacey. Some look just like the ones your great grandmother stored in her curio cabinet, decorated with lace dresses and jewelry. Others are scary and faceless with curved modern bodies and swirls of colors.
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Neva Waldt's dolls lean more towards the whimsical, inspired by characters out of children's books. The Thief of Hearts is an elderly Mad Hatter look-alike creeping across the shelf in a black top hat and pinstriped tuxedo jacket, tightly clutching a red velvet heart. Her other piece Orville Takes A Sick Day is an old geezer in a bathrobe hopping on a pogo stick. Yikes. In her defense, Waldt says, "I guess I have a little bit of a quirky sense of humor." (She means creepy.)
"The doll-making stems from when I was a little kid. I always liked making doll clothes and miniatures, and as I grew up, I took art classes and went into graphic design and I missed making things in 3-D. I love the gestures of fabric and people. I like the idea of someone being creepy and sneaky. I like the idea that with a certain gesture when you freeze frame it, the balance has to be there and that's why I'm always trying to find those poses of something that would be difficult to do and it kind of takes you into that world. When it's believable, the balance works out and the gesture works out. It stops being a doll. You start thinking of it as a little character." If you say so, lady. We're just going to back on out of here, now.
"Dolls Now" is on view through September 19, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main. 713-529-4848.