the doll games
Catalog of Objects Pertaining to the Doll Games of Shelley and Pamela Jackson, Omitting Manuscripts and Other Written Ephemera, which are Itemized Elsewhere
It will be apparent that the numbing quantities of "hard evidence" here assembled cannot possibly fulfill the illustrative function for which they are intended, and serve as much to repulse understanding as to invite it. The imagination is perhaps at first excited by these curious objects, but then lulled, and finally stupefied. Eventually, I will add my own notes and musings, attempting to hold each artifact up to the light of understanding, drawing forth its peculiarities to assist the seeker after knowledge who may find his or her own faculties quailing before the task.
Apron. Black nylon with sash and matching decoration of flowered rick-rack, stitched on with black thread. No further information.
Set of two barbells. Weights are wooden spheres painted black with a hole passing through them through which the shaft, a nail, passes. Hence one end of each barbell shows the head of the nail; the other end shows a hole, as the nail does not pass all the way through the second weight. The shafts are wrapped with black electrical tape.
Barrette consisting of a strip of blue faux-leather with a short tapered piece of a round wooden toothpick passing through the two ends and bringing them around in a curve. May have been worn by Mara.
Bathroom commodities in molded "plastic wood" decorated with magic marker to resemble name brands. Includes: Desitin lotion (in pump dispenser), Stridex medicated pads, Secret deodorant, Noxzema, Band-Aids, Johnsons Baby Cream, Suave Shampoo, Johnsons Baby Powder, Coppertone, Sucrets, Johnsons Dental Floss, [brand illegible] nasal spray, Buffered aspirin. Emblematic of the way the Doll Games consumed the larger culture, transforming and reconfiguring it for its own purposes, these jewel-like miniatures, none more than half an inch tall, are the products of thoroughly American dreamers.
Exotic bellydance outfit consisting of string bikini top and bottom of blue faux leather on which sequins of assorted sizes, colors and shapes have been sewn with fine copper wire. Some sequins also dangle on short lengths of twisted wire and some are threaded onto the straps of the articles.
Belt. Yellow rubber band decorated with reflective tape: one long piece of red tape with angled sides accented with a shorter, centrally placed strip of rainbow spectrum tape; two smaller, square pieces of this rainbow tape flank the red tape.
Two belts, one of burnt sienna faux leather, one end pointed, the other end larger and trimmed to resemble a square buckle. Pointed end fits through two slits in "buckle" to close; one of blue faux leather, ends cut at an angle, held together by a short brown plastic rod that pierces both ends.
Tin "SUCRETS" box containing the assembled writings of the dolls in various styles and formats, including literary efforts (Dawn's "A true-life romance", Harvey's "Moments with Mara" and "ParakeetA flash"), self-help publications ("Dieting the Easy Way by Dawn," Madame Dotrovthnile's Hairdressing Book), and romantic ephemera from Dawn's busy love life. Sucrets, a throat lozenge, was popular with the orally fixated Jacksons for its candy-like sweetness. Note that the only written texts generated within the primarily oral tradition of the Doll Games are preserved in what one might call a "voice box"! The resemblance of Sucrets to secrets will not escape the attention of the careful reader.
Padded bra of molded white gum adhesive covered in white medical gauze, with straps of yellow telephone wire. The practice of building prosthetic breasts and penises out of clay probably arose in response to the needs of the "sexy" games of the early late classical period, rather than out of a more general concern with anatomical correctness. Either way, clay parts were nearly universal in the later Doll Games, as no male doll was originally endowed with a penis, and female leads Aina, Mara and Melanie had the smooth torsos of the pre-adolescent Skipper and Fluff. This removable prosthesis is particularly interesting for the way it highlights the fundamentally theatrical nature of gender, which like this breast-laden bra can be donned or discarded at the dictates of desire and story line.
Camera. Rectangular block of wood painted black with a white strip accenting the front, where a nut and washer together form the lens. The view-finder window is indicated on this side by a small rectangle of silver metallic paper or tape inset in the white strip and outlined in black. On the top of the camera the head of a small nail driven most of the way into the body of the camera represents the shutter release. There is also a patch of glue where a "flash bulb" may once have been attached. On the back side of the camera a small strip of yellow paper is glued to the center. On it is printed "1 - 1" to represent the exposure number. On this side and corresponding to the location of the viewfinder on the front is a small patch of glue where a matching viewfinder window may have been indicated by a similar metallic rectangle. The bottom of the camera is unadorned except for the black paint. . This camera, loaded with self-reflexive implications (and a full roll of film), also points to the voyeurism/exhibitionism so characteristic of Doll Games plots.
Birthday candle in holder. Single cream-colored birthday candle, bent and soiled, fit into a base consisting of a wooden cylindar with a hole through it, painted white.
Calendar, 3 1/2" by 2 1/4". Bound with tape. Hand-ruled and numbered in pencil; months noted in bold blue marker. Most of the images (January-August) are pictorial stamps from the National Wildlife Federation, depicting American animals, e.g. Willow Ptarmigan (January), Mushroom (July). These are reproductions of paintings. Of the remaining three, two are miniature reproductions of posters, seen elsewhere in the collection as posters. September is a sunset and the unattributed legend, "The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence." October is a moon seen through trees and the legend, "Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true." Quote is attributed but illegible. November is a picture of a fish, cut out of a magazine. Note that the calendar runs "September to August" as stated on the front cover, otherwise blank, in blue magic marker over pencil draft: "Calendar Sept. 77 to August 78", so it is possible that these three unmatching images were preferred.
One sock hooded cape hemmed with white cloth tape, hood formed from toe of sock gathered at nape with small brass safety pin, gathered around face with cloth tape. Single pearly button at nape sewn on with black thread; buttonhole is reinforced with cloth tape.
Two silvery capes of thin perforated silver film (thermal material?) gathered at the throat, one with a piece of black cloth tape, one with green electrical tape. Black tape is coming undone; otherwise mint.
Gift card of torn lavendar-colored construction paper reading in purple marker, "Josh From Jenny & Teddy". Piece of scotch tape over the first word has bits of fibrous chartreuse and brown matter stuck to it, which might provide a clue as to the identity of the gift. It is reasonable to assume this dates from the Big Christmas.
Greeting card, blue cat drawing on light blue construction paper, reading "To Melanie Happy no more school! From Jesse". Splendid association item!
"Cash box" (so labelled in magenta magic marker on a small hand-trimmed piece of white paper, an irregular square with the corners rounded off, affixed to the box), The Blue Tip matchbox, unlined, containing 7 "pieces of eight", gold on one side, silver on the other, punched out of metallic paper with a hole-punch.
Costume set list of contents printed in pink magic marker on a piece of white paper (3 1/2" by 2 7/8") as follows:
Cup of orange plastic (piece of tubing) with base of green modelling clay. Once a fixture in Maras apartment.
3 juice cups. Brass bullet casing. On base: "SUPER". From the apartment of Mara or Melanie.
Lot of three daggers, including:
A small green cardboard disc punched out of an Easter egg dye box, reading For a GOOD EGG, with (in pen, parents handwriting) Pimmie added. [NB: probably not a doll-related item.]
Assorted sock dresses in the form of tubes with two holes cut near the top. This simple monastic attire was favored by Aina, especially in her short-haired incarnation.
Assorted dresses of single piece of cloth with two holes cut near the top. One of these is trimmed with orange rick-rack, stitched on.
Two dresses with full skirts stitched to contrasting bodices, with two holes cut near top and finished with thread (like buttonholes).
Face-powder for ladies. Small plastic box (printed label: BENNETT, 2289 LEAF). Contains white powder and cotton puff trimmed to fit box. Label (too big for box) of white paper taped to front of box reads in purple marker "face powder for ladies".
Flashlight. A barrel-shaped whiskey-colored translucent plastic button with a silver-backed dome on one end; a matching dome once adorned the other end but has fallen or been prised off to improve the resemblance to a flashlight. This item was a treasured possession, which probably changed hands from Aina to Mara and back depending on who was the "main character."
Seventies style freeform soft furniture element consisting of 10 dark grey foam rubber cylinders strung together on a piece of grey telephone wire. Gift dating from "Big Christmas," seldom used.
Hair ornament. Six petaled flower of small pearly beads threaded on loops of wire, all on a twisted wire "stem". Once a cake or florists decoration? Worn at balls by princesses, therefore seen on various dolls, even Katherine.
Eight assorted handbags, one purse and one backpack. Duracell purse, semi-transparent "purse" on small brass bead-chain, was made from a container for hearing aid batteries. Lid pops off to reveal two compartments containing 18 tiny loose yellow beads. Gold lettering on lid reads "Compliments of DURACELL®" All others are of faux leather, two in yellow ochre, four in burnt sienna, one blue, two metallic gold, most stitched in telephone wire. One has leather thong strap, one metallic gold rick-rack strap, the rest are telephone wire, twisted or simple. Closures include tongue-and-slot, one wire clasp, two wire twist ties, three open tops. All are rectangular except one which is pocket-shaped. Backpack bears initial J in white plastic. One bag has "Sue" printed on it in black magic marker. One bag has a glow-in-the-dark "ceiling star" on its reverse. Two contain paper "money": white rectangles each bearing a circled numeral 1 in pencil/black marker. Paradoxically, although the Doll Games showed a utopian disregard for money and a high scorn for the conventional appurtenances of femininity, purses were manufactured in quantities rivaled only by daggers. Was the vaginal pursepictured here in an almost military arraywaging a war with the phallic dagger over the contested territory of the Doll Games?
"Robin Hood" hat. Three triangles of faux leather in yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and metallic gold, stitched together with yellow telephone wire to make a hat with a protruding triangular "bill".
Soft hat of red velvet gathered at the crown with telephone wire and at the brim with a brass safety pin. Printed on front of hat with black Sharpie the name "Josie". We do not remember who Josie is.
Two Magicians hats, one of dark blue felt shaped with scotch tape. Crescent moon of gold felt glued on front. One, conical, of black felt, with crescent moon made of glow in the dark tape stuck on near point.
Helmet with moving visor. Tri-colored faux leather stitched in a cylindrical shape with purple telephone wire. Visor held on at two corners with telephone wire (decoratively coiled in tight spirals). Name (?) on visor is smeared and illegible. We do not remember who wore this helmet but from the skill evident in its craftsmanship it is of late vintage, probably "Big Christmas".
Padded helmet made of a cube of white styrofoam, the two back angles rounded off, with a hole messily carved in the bottom. On the flat front side small pieces of magenta telephone wire bent into the styrofoam at both ends form the capital letters of the legend "THE TERRIBLE TWO". The loop of the first R is missing.
Robin Hood style hood of green velvet gathered and secured with a small brass safety pin
Lot of five jewelry boxes, including:
Lotion in plastic capsule from gum machine. Lotion is dried and gummy.Taped on paper label printed in red or pink marker is almost illegible due to the spreading of the ink in the greasy medium which has completely permeated the paper, but it seems to read "skin beauty lotion". (The first word is an educated guess, the next two seem to be correct.
Novelty mirror, framed with forest green electrical tape, with a backing of contact paper bearing a swirling pattern of psychedelic swashes of greens and blues. The face of the mirror bears fancifully curving eyebrows, a small mustache and a bushy beard, all cut out of electrical tape (the beard is formed from three joined pieces).
Note paper, 8 blank sheets of hand cut doll-sized paper (approx. 1 1/4 by 1 3/8)
Pad of balloon letter paper, 12 sheets (1 1/2" by 1 1/2") each with a hand-drawn balloon decoration in multicolored magic marker, perfect-bound (except one sheet stuck in with tape). On front cover, "balloon letter paper" in purple magic marker, the two os bearing joined balloon strings. In pink, two balloons and the words, "12 sheets".
Small square "framed" photo of beach scene. Once a miniature poster? Image is of waves around a headland. It is trimmed with a zig-zag scissors and glued onto a larger "frame" of white card trimmed with the same scissors. On the reverse, in orange marker (surface scarred by removal of a small piece of tape): "To Percy f[rom] candy-cane" Candy cane was a beautiful white velvet unicorn with a green horn.We do not know who Percy was.
Two pillows filled with cotton, of blue velvet folded over and sewn up three sides with green yarn, approx 3 1/2" by 2 1/2"
Single platform sandal of blue styrofoam with straps of yellow and blue telephone wire securing the toe with an x but loose at the ankle up which they are possibly intended to be criss-crossed Roman style. This artifact exemplifies the Doll Games' strategic appropriation and ironic framing of elements of the dominant culture (in this case, popular styles of the disco era). The care put into crafting an article that would have been spurned by the Doll Games' androgynous heroines shows the complex interplay of desire and scorn in the Doll Games' ongoing interrogation of femininity. Just whose foot did the cobbler have in mind? Like the bewildered prince in the fairy tale, we are left with a shoe and a question.
Rain poncho made of liquid rubber (dyed purple) painted onto paper towel (faint print in orange (stylized orange, carrot or pepper, star) trimmed in a rough circle, with circle cut out of the center.
Six miniature posters cut from an ad. One, discolored by tape around the edges, shows two seagulls with the legend, They can because they think they can, in sensitive italics. One shows a backlit tree with the sun, filtering through the branches, making a star in the lens, with the legend, God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, in red type. One shows a natural arch at the beach, The best way out is always through. View of desert canyon: TO WONDER IS TO BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND. Snow under trees: Do not follow where the path leads. Rather go where there is no path and leave a trail. Lake through trees: The greatest truths are the simplest. Some of these posters adorned the apartments of Mara and Melanie.
Velvet pouch or satchel. Purple velvet, stitched with varicolored thread. Front and inside of flap is decorated (?) with large stitches of blue and red thread, respectively, distributed in an apparently random way.Double-sided puzzle, cat-shaped. 11 two-ply faux-leather pieces of 12 (one missing). In Johnson&Johnsons dental floss box (label removed).
Picture puzzle, in matchbox, (psychedelic pattern) with thick white paper taped over it with approx 6 pieces of scotch tape and covering all but 2/5 of the back side. On front cover is the legend (in pencil): "two lion cubs [break] 44 piece puzzle". Contains 44 piece photographic puzzle on stiff paper with white back. On back side of puzzle pieces you can make out the forms of smaller puzzle pieces traced in pencil, evidence that the artist originally intended to make a more complex puzzle. Box also contains a small (3 1/4" by 2 7/8") drawing (colored pencil on tracing paper) of two lion cubs on a tree trunk, with the legend in pink, "The puzzle (more or less)". This paper is folded in eight pieces. Box also contains a shoe-shaped piece of white paper, folded once, with the note printed in black ballpoint pen, "for a better picture see April 69 national geographics article on lions."
Intricately braided yarn sash (?)in forest green and chartreuse. No further information is available on this item. Gift?
Shampoo bottle. Small plastic bottle with red screw cap (once held food coloring?) with trimmed (top corners rounded) white paper label held on with yellowing tape on which is printed "Clairol herbal essence shampoo" in red magic marker, somewhat faded.
Single faux leather shoe folded trimmed and stitched with black telephone wire.
Handmade shoes of faux leather, yellow ochre, folded, trimmed, uppers and heel stitched, one with black thread, one with black in front, white in back.
Sketch book. 1 3/8" by 2", with a cardboard cover once apparently green (inside of cover shows some color still), now grey. Bound with two staples, back side foremost. Front cover reads "Sketch Book" printed in black marker, and bears a sensitive sketch of a freckled girl with a sideways nose, this also in magic marker (assorted colors). The first two pages of the sketchbook bear pencil sketches of faces, the first an androgynous figure in three-quarter view, the second a doleful neckless profile.
Single foam-rubber slipper stitched with pink telephone wire. Made for the use of "Sunshine Family" man Ted.
Blue faux leather suspenders, criss-crossed at the center of the back and joined with a small brass safety pin; clasps are identical safety pins. One of the two front clasps is missing.
Hand-sewn maroon sock sweater. Regularly worn by Aina.
Swim cap of purple tinted liquid rubber shaped into a flexible cap with a rolled edge resembling a condom. The rolled edge is separated from the crown on one side and serves as a chin-strap.
Sword. White cocktail sword with wire twisted through handle.
Trunk [?], childrens SUCRETS box, lid covered in brown faux-leather, and MELANIE in joined capital letters cut out of yellowish faux-leather affixed to it.
3 vases. Steel shell casing. On base: "R P 38 SPL." From the apartment of Mara or Melanie.
Vest of green fake fur trimmed with zig-zag scissors and closed with single button sewn on with green thread.
Set of weights, broken. Two rubber-clad metal wheels (internal parts of engine?). Cross-bar is a wooden dowel tapered on one end, probably a chopstick, passing through the centers of the wheels ("weights") and "bolted" on the outside with, one the tapered end, an accretion of red waxy material (beeswax?) and on the other, a red rubber band wound many times around the shaft, possibly a later addition. The shaft is broken close to the wheel on the un-tapered end.
Three wigs, one of green, black, and chartreuse yarn assembled at the part with pieces of thin (ripped) masking tape; one of black yarn looped to surround head, joined (at what would be the nape) with a rubber band; one of black yarn (unravelled strands) knotted around a rubber band