“I don’t pretend to be an artist, I just play with dolls.”
Moscow-born New Yorker E.V. Svetova’s intricate, elaborately styled characters and the urban scenarios she puts them in are as cinematic and compelling as anything that Cindy Sherman has created. If not more so. Svetova became an internet sensation after the photographs of her series of David Bowie dolls went viral. She continues to refashion existing fantasy dolls – from Soom and Dollstown – and custom sculpt her own models to create tableaux that add an extra dimension to the characters that can be found in her written fantasy fiction.
She spoke to us about some of her most compelling images:
“I was born in Moscow, grew up in the Soviet Union during the 70s, and had a chance to experience both the security and the subjugation of the totalitarian state. In retrospect, it was a winning combination of a happy childhood and a subversive youth.
I received a classical fine arts training, and a Masters degree in English, but just as it was my time to become a productive member of society, the country I knew fell apart at the seams. I found work as a translator and later as a writer for a foreign newspaper. Moscow in the 90s was like Berlin in the 20s: dangerous, vibrant and exciting. At some point it became too exciting for my blood, and after the second coup d’état in 1993 I came to live in the States. I’ve considered myself a New Yorker ever since.
I’ve always loved crafts, and appreciated the God-like feeling that creating miniatures, especially dolls, offers. Because of their detailed articulation and realism, ball-jointed dolls lend themselves to a great degree of customisation: they can be sanded, carved, painted, outfitted with custom eyes and wigs to create a unique image. No two dolls are identical. I do all the customization for my dolls, turning them into characters from my stories. Last year I published a children’s book, Print In The Snow, about a teenage girl who had an adventure in the Otherworld and lived to tell the tale. Now I am finishing a novel with the same character as an adult, exploring the thin line between the real and the fantastical, sanity and mental illness, and the games our perception plays with reality. With their unearthly yet uncannily human beauty, these dolls provide a wonderful source of inspiration.”