The Story of Little Effigies (Histoire des petites effigies). 1990. Plush toys and framed collages, each with doll's clothing, and charcoal on gelatin-silver print under glass. The Norton Family Foundation. Photograph by Kleinfenn, Paris.
In 1988, Messager began working with groups of used stuffed toys, combining them with black and white photographs of body parts and bits of text in works titled My Little Effigies. Most often these works were installations, with the animals scattered across a wall, each necklaced with a photograph and shadowed by a word repeatedly crayoned on the wall below. In The Story of Little Effigies, Messager has piled up the toys as if amassing fetishes to endow a location with power. By including small, strange items of clothing in the frames, she further concentrates the sense of fetishism by alluding to bodies that are no longer present.
Detail of My Little Effigies (Mes Petites Effigies). 1988. Plush toys, gelatin-silver prints under glass, and colored pencil on wall, approximately 11 x 6 inches (27.9 x 15.2 cm). Collection Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol.
The use of toys is reminiscent of the paradoxical nature of childhood, suggesting both a beloved familiarity and an unsettling sadism. Messager is interested in this paradox, but where animals can often symbolize a darker, masturbatory childhood, replete with forbidden activity, Messager's stuffed animals recall a broader range of childhood playacting and ritual.
Details of My Little Effigies (Mes Petites Effigies). 1988. Plush toys, gelatin-silver prints under glass, and colored pencil on wall. Approximately 11 x 5 inches. Collection the artist.
These works are ambivalent: her animals can be talismans of youthful invention as well as the discarded accomplices of a maturing child. One of Messager's intentions is that by drawing attention to the magical qualities of objects used in Western societies, the objects might recoup some of the status and even magic of objects used in daily rituals in other parts of the world.
My Little Effigies - 22K JPEG
Installation view with African sculpture, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989.
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