Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Daena Title

Daena Title

Daena Title was born in Manhattan in 1957 and was raised in Long Island, New York. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and in Theatre Studies from Wellesley College in 1979, and lived in Manhattan until 1991. Title currently resides in Los Angeles, California, and has shown her work in gallery and museum spaces since 1998.

Title’s long-term obsession with women's issues and contemporary social dynamics led her to mine the Barbie doll as metaphor in her recent series of paintings and photographs. For "DROWN the DOLLS," Title submerged the Barbie doll (and herself) in a backyard pool and then aimed her camera upwards towards the under-side of the pool's surface.

The resulting images of both doll and its distorted reflection pit what is “true” vs. what is "false." The reflections, the Barbie doll, and the paint all present a reality that is simultaneously distorted and representational. This overlap of tensions and contrasts allow the visceral and the intellectual to reinforce and reflect one another in continuing, reverberating dialogue.

In my "DROWN the DOLLS" series, the formal compositions of refraction and reflection mirror the way women see themselves reflected and distorted, for better or worse (I believe for worse) in the image of the Barbie doll. Pervasive societal standard, indoctrinating tool, or "just a doll," this 51 (and counting) year old icon presents a view of women that is as relentlessly fake as it is unattainable.

In "DROWN the DOLLS," pre-pubescent girls play with Barbie, holding her under the water as if saying “no” to the narrow parameters she presents as role model. In others the Barbie free floats alone, serving as metaphor for the female subconscious and its “drowned” dreams and submerged anger at the relentless stress society places on attaining physical beauty above all else. The images encourage us, too, to “drown” these internalized voices that haunt us.

My lifetime obsession with the way women see themselves reflected in society, the visuals society foists upon us, and how the resulting concomitant voices permeate our thoughts and our sense of self informs my work. In previous series, for example, I explored the multi-tasking and split focus of the post-feminist woman with figurative images overlaid with lists and calendars; I’ve explored women with multiple mirror reflections; women falling and flying; and women wrapped up in fabric cocoons.

In "DROWN the DOLLS," the multiple refractions that play on the pool’s under-surface remind us that Barbie, and other social media, send distorted messages to girls and women. Though beautiful, they are faulty mirrors that can grotesquely and unrecognizably distort the true feminine. The path to self-actualization lies elsewhere. Better to break the surface and rise up to the real world of air and light beyond.

View Daena Title's CV (PDF)

SmileDirty FighterMadonna of the DollsLavender ReflectionPool WitchFaulty MirrorDark Friends

Artist Statement on "DROWN the DOLLS"Feminist Panel Discussion: "Should Barbie Sink or Swim?" for "DROWN the DOLLS"

Los Angeles, CA


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