studio explorations – oct 2021

a selfie with two paper doll props. the bible belongs to Anita Bryant and the Oscar belongs to Mary Pickford.

the hand of Anita Bryant’s doll caressing Mary Pickford’s signature smile.

playing with the intersection of paper dolls and drag. i’m trying on one of Anita’s wigs, this one coming from one of her infamous Florida Orange Juice commercials.

Anita’s americana look, referencing a photo taken from her beauty queen days.

Anita and Mary both represent the ideal white American woman from their respective time periods. Anita, a born again Christian whose fame started with Miss Oklahoma and sang to the troops with Bob Hope, became a symbol of the New (Religious) Right in the 1970s by crusading against LGBTQ+ rights. Mary was one of Hollywood’s first starlets of the silent movie era who pivoted to directing and producing with the threat of talkie technology. She remained a symbol of pure American white womanhood by starring as ingenues, strong-willed little girls (well into her 20s) and rustic women of the frontier. In her 1919 film, Heart O’ the Hills, Mary plays a Kentucky country girl fighting for her land against developers, in which she dresses in a Klan robe with her white brethren to terrorize the outsiders. Her association with D.W. Griffith & public praise for Birth of a Nation are incredibly alarming as she is still widely recognized as a pioneer of women’s roles in entertainment and the gendered history of filmmaking.

Through this exploration of paper dolls and the aesthetics of 1950s-70s American pop culture, I want to connect the political unrest and rise of the Religious Right to prominent white women figures throughout American history.