Currently, I'm participating in the Shakespeare challenge being put on by ADO (Art Dolls Only), a team of doll-makers of which I'm a member. Participants have been interviewed on the ADO blog for the past few weeks, so I thought I'd share my little interview here.
1) Why did you choose this particular character?
I have had an ambivalent relationship with Ophelia over the past 15 years. As a teenager, I was attracted to tormented characters, and mad women in particular. I had a print of Waterhouse’s painting of Ophelia over my bed, and went around with a velvet-covered notebook, which I filled with poetry about beautiful women losing their minds. Your average death-obsessed adolescent. When I was a little girl, I eventually rebelled against my beloved Barbies by cutting off all their hair and snipping off their toes. Similarly, as I got older, I started to resent the highly romanticized portrayal of women as frail victims who lose their minds over every little torment. Eventually, when I saw Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Ophelia, I made peace with the character; Winslet played Ophelia as a stronger character who is driven mad not simply because Hamlet is a jerk, but also because she is a woman with no real agency who is surrounded by people willing to manipulate her for their own ends. In other words, the whole incestuous, Danish monarchy is mad and Ophelia is just the one who most embodies that madness because she is the one with the least power to affect any change - all fairly true for young, unmarried women of that time.
2) What techniques did you employ? Why?
I chose to make Ophelia as a polymer clay figurine (ie. Head, torso and arms only) to emphasize the idea that she is not entirely whole. But I gave her white hair to counter the usual depiction of her as fragile and waif-like. To me, she has aged a lifetime in her madness, and cannot bear to carry on living knowing the cruelty of which people are capable.
3) What are your associations/ experiences with Shakespeare in general?
I’ve always loved Shakespeare. As an undergraduate literature student, I studied his plays and I also taught them when I was a high school English teacher. While there is much debate about his female characters, and whether or not they are misogynist, I think that, like most of his characters, they are complex enough to be read many different ways. And ultimately, the guy made up his own words – beautiful words – and he could string a hell of a sentence together, and that means more to me than his politics.
I'll post some more pictures of Ophelia once she's finished (and I've taken those cruel pins out of her head!)