Jem and The Holograms

I was given this group of threadbare dolls: their faded but still fabulous qualities only made them more intriguing to me. A little investigation revealed they were dolls based on the 1985-88 American TV cartoon ‘Jem and the Holograms’ and I think the dolls were made in 1986/7. Further research showed that this cartoon series still has an active fan base. In 2015 a live action film re-working the Jem characters and storyline was made but proved unsuccessful. I thought the dolls were beautifully made, a satisfying scale to hold and artistically irresistable. Their colours and textures wonderfully vital and they were a delight to pose and they invited play. But as embodiments of aspiration they were ambiguous. Such ‘teenage’ dolls are still made and now function alongside and are embedded within the popular culture of Pop idols, selfies, the pressures of social media, and dreams of becoming instantly ‘rich and famous’ as a life-goal. I thought these dolls’ neglected shabbiness was poignant and decided to paint them at my scale- as if I could walk into the painting and take up the pose. Initially, they seem a celebration of energy and youthful dynamism in subject and execution but the paintings render the dolls immobile in their current state of disrepair and neglect: frozen in a moment of faded abandonment but then resurrected with exuberance and possibility.

Created December, 1994