What you see is Dawn Gilmore.
The doll heads, each sitting on a thin pillar behind the glass front, attracting more than the odd stare from passersby, have been transformed. They are interesting, absolutely; disconcerting for some, too, perhaps.
But each figure is an honest expression, representative, Gilmore says, of an emotion or experience in her life. What you see is a razorblade Mohawk, some glam face paint, an eye held to the face with bandages, and the nails protruding from the forehead of a sculpture that most resembles television era’s interpretation of Frankenstein’s monster.
What each of these mean, exactly, is up for interpretation. What’s for certain, however, is that these pieces are Dawn Gilmore.
Gilmore’s mixed media art, titled "Purged Memories," is currently on display and serving as the front window display at on Broad Street. The gallery and art rehabilitation center has made a habit of generating provocative window displays, contracting local artists, like Gilmore, or using the work created by its clients, to create a vision that’s never stale or boring.
Gallery coordinator Robert Langdon said Gallery U has presented some of Gilmore’s work before and that the mixed media presentation, along with its striking visual style, would be a good way to draw attention. When it comes to disembodied doll heads, there’s no denying that.
“Some of her pieces can be controversial, thought-provoking,” Langdon said during a brief interview. “It might not be everyone’s taste, but since it’s been up I’ve seen people turn their heads and stop to look on the sidewalk. It’s definitely getting a response and isn’t that what art’s all about?”
Gilmore, a Cliffwood Beach resident, isn’t interested in creating art that shocks people. Art, how it’s created, how it’s perceived, and, certainly, how it’s judged, is all very personal. And while she appreciates positive reactions to her art – those she certainly welcomes – it’s reaction in general, varied as it is from one person to the next, that tells her what’s working.
Still, her work, whether it’s mixed media, painting, drawing, or photography, among other media, is created for one person, she said, herself.
“(Mixed media are) usually very personal pieces,” the 35-year-old said. “It’s usually representative of something I’m going through at that moment.
“It’s something I do for myself. Too, I want to show it, and possibly sell it, but the general purpose, the focus, is very personal.”
As far as using doll heads as a canvas, that’s something Gilmore started doing years ago while attending art school. As part of a renewed focus on creating mixed media with found objects, Gilmore returned to the things that had provided so much inspiration years ago.
What it is, exactly, about doll heads that invites wild interpretation, Gilmore can’t exactly say. She sees something like a doll head and sets to work. Often with only a rough idea of where she’s going to take it, the end product is wildly original and more than a bit creepy.
And though the pieces, staring out at pedestrians from behind the glass through blank eyes, or in the case of some of the pieces, one or three eyes, are each strikingly different in color, conception and design, they still represent one person: Dawn Gilmore.
The doll heads will be on display at Gallery U until September. To check them out, simply walk by the gallery's store front, or see them inside during gallery hours or Friday's . Gilmore's art can be seen at dawngilmore.com.