Article Originally Published by Jordan Kidd on North Texas Daily
There was something about the boy in the sombrero’s emotive gaze and pale smile, despite the cracks sprawling over his body and face, that resonated with Denton resident Maria Burke as she snapped the mannequin’s photo.
The photo was taken in 2017 during a trip to Oklahoma City, and since then Burke has been snapping photos of the unusual. At first, the speech-language pathologist and amateur photographer posted the photos of antique dolls and mannequins she had taken to her personal Instagram account and received mixed reviews from her friends and family. When her husband gave her the idea to post the dolls onto a separate account, the @doll_eyes9 Instagram was formed in January 2019.
“I liked the idea of presenting my photos without any personal attachment, as my friends and family were always viewing them as they relate to me,” Burke said. “I want the pictures to speak for themselves, without any internal bias as to what it may mean in regard to me personally. I really started the page as a place to have a collection of all these pictures I’d taken without any expectation that people would follow me.”
The @doll_eyes9 Instagram often features close-ups of her subjects with a focus on the face and eyes of each unique doll and mannequin. It is the faces, whether they be human, animal, dolls, mannequins, etc., that fascinate her, Burke said.
“It’s fascinating to me that something as static as a doll can capture a specific emotion and evoke a feeling on sight… because of the emotion they express and elicit from the viewer,” Burke said.
Burke said the comments on the @doll_eyes9 account can often bring some mixed reviews as well, some loving the content immediately while others finding them creepy or weird.
“The range of emotional responses I get is exciting to me,” Burke said. “Art is about evoking emotion, no matter if the reaction is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ When someone is viewing your art, there is nothing worse than indifference.”
One of her followers, Pennsylvania resident Kierstin Maye, said she followed the account due to Burke’s ability to take something others would find creepy, dirty and gross and show its true beauty.
“She is able to capture this innocence and history of these dolls in a beautiful way, and then shares them with the world,” Maye said. “She has been a huge inspiration to me, as I am a doll artist, and has given me lots of ideas through her posts. Overall, [Burke] runs a beautiful account, full of gorgeous dolls, interesting finds and a world of unspoken history through these dolls.”
Burke said she particularly liked antique dolls for a few reasons, one of them being the sense of history behind the dolls.
“Many of these dolls go back as far as the late 1800s and range into the 1970s, from countries all over the world,” Burke said. “There is something incredible about knowing a doll could have been a child’s beloved item and I wonder how this doll has lasted all these years and its journey to where it is now.”
She is also fascinated by the unique features found on the dolls, such as cracks, clouded eyes, blinking eyes and the distinct features in the actual sculpt of the dolls’ faces.
“These idiosyncrasies that might make a person creeped-out are beautiful to me,” Burke said. “You might find a doll smiling, crying, frowning or with an interesting shape of the lips, cheeks or eyes. I feel this differs from modern-day dolls which are essentially the same doll head with variance only in their painted make-up and hair color.”
For Arizona native and follower Heather LaSmelle, the Instagram account offered her a way to still enjoy antique dolls after her personal collection was downsized during a move and a divorce.
“Dolls fascinate me,” LaSmelle said. “I started following this account a while back because I noticed a friend of mine, who also loves dolls, was following it. I just love all things that are old, decrepit, falling apart and weathered-especially dolls…[The account] is a way for me to still enjoy the creepy dolls that I’m drawn to without sacrificing the money or space.”
When searching for her next post, Burke often combs through antique malls, estate sales and flea markets. She said antique shopping has since become a hobby for her family.
“My husband usually separates with my nine-year-old son and they leave me to take pictures while they search the booths for things that interest them,” Burke said. “I take too long and slow them down. Although, they always come find me to make sure I don’t miss any that they see along the way. My son used to hate the dolls, but now he gets excited when he finds one for me to photograph.”
Courtesy Maria Burke
Source: North Texas Daily