Gabrielle de Montmollin


Artist Statement

In my photographs I try to suggest interior states which are mirrored in conditions in the world around us. These are some elements which are central to my work:

I use dolls as stand-ins for real people because of their power of allusion. From the earliest times humans have believed that souls or spirits existed in every object. From this, it was a small jump of intuition to think that if you fashioned a human-like object it could possess the soul of ancestors or beings with supernatural powers who might act on your behalf. The mystical belief in the power of effigies continues to this day. Modern dolls, made of plastic, and manufactured by the millions can cast a similar spell. It is easy to think that they possess lives of their own and are the repositories of unknown consciousness.

A child playing with a doll attributes a personality to it. A child’s play is often subversive and perverse. I approach dolls in the same way. In our society these figures are loaded with meaning. Those meanings are always in the back of my mind, but the figures are also personalities who exist primarily as players in the mysteries I am exploring.

Animals and Masks
Animals are part of our world, we are all aware of them in different ways and yet we can never truly know what they are thinking. Animals fascinate me because their representation so easily suggests duality. Duality is unsettling, mysterious and present in all of us. The use of masks in my photographs also represents what is hidden and can never be known, and reinforces the sense of strangeness, ambivalence and latent alienation.

An important element of my work has been the use of discarded, thrown-away dolls and toys which I buy in thrift stores. Recently I introduced precious, valued objects to mix in with my company of throwaways. Objects have secret lives which we can only guess at and treasured things have a great power to evoke feelings beyond themselves into other worlds.

My art is based on imagination; I am interested in storytelling, play and mystery. The ‘meaning’ of my images is never set, I invite viewers to discover their own narratives within each picture and those stories are just as definitive as the narratives in my mind when I am making the photographs.

© Gabrielle de Montmollin, 2009