Paper Dolls

It was the early '80s. I was teaching in the Art Department at the University of Southern Mississippi andI was invited to do a show at Itawamba Junior College in Fulton, Miss. I delivered paintings and hung the show in the gallery and then the dean or head of the department or some big shot saw the work and had a hissy fit. Next thing you know the gallery is locked and there's a sign on the door.

"Due to the nature of the subject matter of these works, this exhibition may be viewed by appointment only..."  (see copy of letter in pdf)

The paintings in question were figure paintings. A lot of them were nudes, but they were not salacious or obscene. What could I do about the situation? What if I made nudes that you could put clothing on when company comes? So that's what I did. I made a series of "Paper Dolls" with clothes you could put on and take off. Most were small, from 10 to 20 inches on the longest dimension, and painted on cut-out fomecore board with crapas, oil sticks and sometimes colored pencils. A few were lifesize on thin sheets of wood of the type hollowcore doors are made of, and a couple were larger than lifesize, about seven feet tall. Props such as chairs, mirrors, etc. are in most cases  attached to the clothing. Clothes and props (and in one case a second figure) were attached with tabs that hooked over the figure.

"Little Debbie" posed lying on her stomach on the floor watching TV, so I included the TV as part of the clothing section, and in another painting from the same model I gave her a friend whose figure attached to her in the same way the clothes did. The friend is a self portrait but not posed with Debbie. These are the first four images below.

I did many versions of Joan, including one standing figure that was seven feet tall, which I transported standing up in the bed of a pickup, drawing lots of stares as we drove her across campus.

I apologize for the washed-out photos. If I had the originals I'd re-photograph them, but I don't have them.

Little Debbie No. 1 with Friend (naked)
Little Debbie No. 1 with Friend (clothed)
Little Debbie No. 2 (naked)
Little Debbie No. 2 (clothed)
Little Leland No. 3 (naked) The chair does not detach.
Little Leland No. 3 (clothed)
Little Keri No. 4 (naked) She was seated in a chair but I decided not to paint the chair.
Little Keri No. 4 (underwear) I think this was a separate figure with the underwear painted on, not attached as other clothing was, but I really can't remember. 
Little Keri No. 4 (clothed) 
Gabi No. 3 (naked) life size 
Gabi No. 3 (clothed) life size 
Little Gabi No. 4 (naked) 
Little Gabi No. 4 (clothed) 
Little Alec No. 3 (naked) 
Little Alec No. 3 (clothed) 
Little Jill No. 1 (naked) 
Little Jill No. 1 (clothed) 
Little Joan No. 1 (naked) That's me in the mirror drawing her. 
Little Joan No. 1 (clothed) 
Approximately 10 years after I painted the rest of the Paper Dolls I collaged the mask on to "Little Joan." So far as I know it is the only one of the series still in existence.

copyright Alec Clayton 2010

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