Doll Face

This babe looks like Gloria Steinem on the set of The Twilight Zone.

Valerie Chaucer-Levine photographed her in New Hope, and this, along with other photographs of mannequins, is on view at Hopewell’s Gallery 14 through March 15.

Valerie Chaucer-Levine’s passion for photography began as a
teenager with a basement darkroom, and continues to this day,
although her vision is now realized via digital means. The social
documentary and street photography of Walker Evans, Berenice
Abbott, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Gary Winogrand resonate
with her, and Steve McCurry has sparked her
appreciation of riveting portraiture.

After earning a bachelor’s degree with a concentration
in photography at Queens College, Ms. Chaucer-Levine studied
advertising concepts and graphic design at Pratt Institute. She was an advertising
art director, and later taught photography and graphic design
at the high school level.

Here’s what she writes about her interest in mannequins:

“This project started with a chance encounter on Hollywood
Boulevard. While rushing to an appointment, my attention was
arrested by a display in a wig shop geared to appeal to a more
avant-garde clientele. I had only enough time to take four
photographs, three of which began this series.

“Upon later review of these photographs, I was struck by
something strongly provocative about these particular images,
something beyond the other-worldly beauty of the mannequins
themselves. Something more than graphic composition, strong
colors, or the impact of faces filling the frame, starring back at
me. It was as if there was a human quality recorded in the images
of these plaster replicas, something all at once relevant and
captivating. Yet also a sense of the trapped, the forlorn.

“This encounter set in motion my search for what we reveal about
ourselves when we view these idols of fashion. What is it about
these sirens, these lures created as tools of advertising, that grab
our attention so? I sought out that fleeting glimpse of some inner
consciousness that of course couldn’t really be there. Was it in
their carefully crafted details? In their expressions, frozen for us
to contemplate? Was it a trick of camera angle? What forces us to
take a second look? And what about ourselves might we really
be seeing?”

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3 Responses to Doll Face

  1. joanna tully says:

    Valerie’s work is thought-provoking.

    For me, her photographs of mannequins make the viewer consider the various roles that are played out in life through dress-up games.

    As in life, the disparity between the lady-dolls is evident: some are carrying on flawlessly while others are missing a little paint, coming undone, or are completely broken, peeling, and bald.

    See this show before it closes on March 15th.

  2. maia reim says:

    Chaucer-Levine’s show is a real stunner. She reveals the humanity in the icons of fashion which are created in our image. Ironically the mannequins’ seeming perfection is viewed by fashionistas as the way they would like to look… fashionable and glamourously up to date. Standing in the small gallery surrounded by the blind stares of the fashion dolls creates quite an impact. Kudos!

  3. Valerie Chaucer-Levine says:

    Thank you, Ilene, for helping me get some exposure for my work. Your blog is full of news of some wonderful exhibits we might otherwise miss. Thank you for this also!

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