Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born in Rochester, New York, but I grew up in Ft. Collins, Colorado. I reside with my husband and son in Rochester, Minnesota. We have been here for the last five and a half years.
What's the story behind these dolls?
I have always made figures, and have long wanted to incorporate found objects into their bodies, but didn’t know how. I discovered paper clay and realized it was a tool with which I could include these other objects almost seamlessly into their form. The first doll started as a gift for a friend… there was no pressure to be art. I just wanted to see what she would look like. All the building blocks were there: pattern paper, stitching, found objects, hooks and eyes. The proportions were different, but the first one was interesting enough that it warranted making another.
Your MFA thesis project also focuses on the body, specifically bodies damaged or in peril. What interests you about the human body in this state?
My MFA work was also about damaged and disfigured bodies. I felt those dolls had to be made…I had spent many years denying my body; ignoring its felt sensations and desires. I only wanted to recognize the acceptable and the pretty. There is a whole lot of ugly, imperfect, and undesirable in a body and it’s operator. That is what those dolls were about.
Sculpture from Niki's MFA thesis.
Do you see these creatures as hopeful or sad with their broken-down but built-up bodies?
I see my figures in many ways. They are vulnerable in the way they are hanging on the wall. They are honest in their depiction of their form. They are broken down, but they have the tools of their own repair. I find them even more hopeful as a community. They are individuals but can share themselves. They are not alone in their experience.
Do you ever feel like you are one of these dolls? Or can you relate to them on some level?
I knew with the first doll that I was making myself. That has been true with each body of work that references the figure, but sometimes I don’t get it figured out until after the work is finished.
What's next? Do you think you'll continue this series?
As for future work, I think I am done with these particular sewing and cooking dolls. I am making similar, smaller figures with the same surface treatment that interact with sculpted baked goods. These works are much more fanciful, wearing dresses and red rain boots. Their bodies are animated. They may soon take apart and reassemble cakes and cookies with needle and thread. I’m also thinking about some large embroidered drawings that utilize collage, thread and hooks and eyes to explore the body’s interior spaces.