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Mother Love and the Reborn Doll explores the Reborn community, an international group of self-taught female artists who hand-make, collect, and interact with hyper-realistic dolls. Practitioners are divided principally into makers and collectors, who meet at annual conventions to buy and sell their work. Doll purchases are considered adoptions, and outside of the conventions take place online via the maker’s eBay nurseries.
After initially struggling to make contact with the community, I decided to go to the first annual Reborn convention, which took place in North Carolina in 2011. This was my introduction to the Reborners. The community is much misunderstood and has, over time, been exploited in the press—their practice deemed by some as curious or fringe behavior. As a result, they were understandably suspicious of outsiders bearing cameras. After the convention, I spent the following year traveling across America investigating and recording their practice, working with makers and collectors, and photographing them with their dolls in their homes.
As I got to know more about the Reborners themselves, I became fascinated by their practice—not only in the degree of artistry involved in their doll making, but in their engagement with and interest in the extended mother-child paradigm. The relationship between artifice, representation, reality, and memory is an essential part of this work. After over a year of collecting material, I found the dolls, the totems of the community’s shared behavior, created with such skill and dedication, to be the most fascinating aspect. Subsequently, I realized the only way I could ever fully understand the community and the art making that went into it, was to become a Reborner myself. I spent months travelling across the country learning the craft from the most skilled Reborn doll artists, and documented the process in the first part of the Mother Love series, Nine Months of Reborning.
Two related bodies of work from the Mother Love series explore the process of artistic customization from a common source material. The Amy Project captures the way in which artists individually interpret and idealize the same doll and the Jesus Series explores the presentation of an artist’s personal, ideal representation of the singular Christ Child figure. —Jamie Diamond