Why is it photos of baby dolls are so...creepy? Just look at the image that accompanies the PR for Houston artist Che Rickman's multi-media event Swings of Happiness / Mood Swings happening next Saturday, February 5th, 8pm at Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation Blvd. Why does this photograph give us the willies? Is it the vapid, zoned out expressions on the dolls faces? Is it because the dolls seem to have been caught in mid-flash swinging - one vertically, one horizontally - on teeny tiny swings made of itsy bitsy lengths of rope? Or is it the medium itself that's sending the message? Who photographs dolls, anyway? Especially without the reassuring presence of a young girl to hold the doll (NEVER a dude, right?) to let the viewer know that it's OK, a child is present to imagine the dolly as a being with feelings and a soul, not a vessel for our own emotional turmoil.
Then again, there's that happy feeling you get no matter how old you are when swinging on a swing. Swings of Happiness / Mood Swings is described as a "collaborative multi-media exploration of relationships, motherhood, and female identity." For this event, part of FrenetiCore will be given over to visual works, including video and interactive media, while the black box theater will host the performance components of the evening. Che Rickman will start things off in collaboration with her five-year-old daughter Sway, inviting the audience to journey through "her labyrinth in search of happiness." The show includes contributions from Rickman's closest female friends, including artist/travelers Teresa O'Connor, Chris Dethloff Greene, Dran Alessi, Christa Forster, and Beth Secor. Performances and "a few special guest appearances" along with the installation work described will all be a part of this multidimensional meditation on the happiness, sadness, and the space in between.
FrenetiCore, where Che Rickman and husband Matt Crawford are current artists-in-residence, provides a venue as well as technical and marketing support for artists who embrace process, collaboration, and the combining of multiple mediums for artistic expression. In a time where larger arts institutions seem terrified of investing in anything that isn't a sure bet (and art is never about a final result or bottom line), forward thinking spaces like FrenetiCore are filling the void.
Check out Che February 5th as she and her friends share "crazy stories from being blue to being happy too." And hey, maybe those dolls are doing just fine on those swings, thank you very much.
(Please note, Che tells us that portions of the show are not kid friendly.)