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Tara Conley's and Tria Wood's New Installation: "My Life as a Doll"

Watch what you say during your visit to the exhibit "My Life as a Doll." Sculptor Tara Conley has been known to write down snippets of overheard conversation to use in her work.

Conley paired up with writer Tria Wood to create "My Life as a Doll." The installation covers some 800 square-feet, and is made up of a series of life-sized rooms. "We've built an 800-square-foot, giant book," she tells Art Attack. "Each double-open page of a book becomes a room inside a home where a man and woman live. The man's name is Guy, and the woman is living her life as a doll."

Viewers walk through the exhibit and see the woman's surroundings but are left on their own to imagine the woman and her state of mind. What's it like living like a doll? Conley and Wood give us hints. For one thing viewers see Guy, her husband, and their house, but not the woman herself (there's only a silhouette of her in a mirror). For another, Conley has installed colorful flowers made of steel and ragged cotton in one room; they're beautiful but cold and hard.

"You never see the woman as you walk through," Conley says. "What you see is the entrance to her home, you see a breakfast room and a diary page sitting on a table. You go to the atrium and see where she grows flowers and how he's a beekeeper. The following room is her closet, followed by room where there's a cocktail party. The last room is their bedroom."

The narrative aspect of the installation follows the form of a children's book, with just one or two stanzas on each page. "There's subtext layered throughout the entire exhibition. For example, in her closet, I've built a wrought iron clothing rack that almost looks like a tiara. There are black outfits, everything from panties to dresses. Each dress is labeled with an acrylic hot pink tag and each tag has a phrase from my collection of phrases, I've been collecting phrases for the last 15 years. One dress says, 'I Only Eat on Tuesdays Dress," and it's a very skinny dress with a tiny waist.

Conkey and Wood used some of the phrases verbatim, and some were changed a bit. "The phrase 'I Only Eat on Tuesdays' comes from 'He only beats me on Tuesdays.' I heard someone say that in a conversation; it was like, 'Oh, everything's great, except for all that really terrible stuff.'

See "My Life as a Doll" noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through December 17 at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway. For information, visit www.diverseworks.org or call 713-223-8346. Free.

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