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Self-Taught & Visionary Art in New Zealand

Val Sutherland

Val learnt the basic technique of papier-mâché dollmaking at a local community art workshop and was struck by the potential of a process where something from nothing could emerge in a short time.

Val is a mother of six, so time must be managed. What Val creates is a folksy reflection of the characters of our world. All the characters that Val fashions have already been mediated or manufactured for us; they are stereotypes of vocations, mythical characters from the past, TV characters, storybook characters, fairytale characters, animals, comic characters. They are all named, they are all carefully painted all over (even inside cloaks or under skirts), and they are manufactured in a business-like manner. Val has evolved systems to improve efficiency of production in order to satisfy the demand for the dolls, and she enlists the aid of her children to help.

These works have become very popular and collectible. What appeals initially about these little characters is their familiarity and the charm of their scale and their direct and vivid presence, but then there is something else; Val’s dolls present a vaguely creepy quality that we attach to any effigy, the voodoo doll, the trapped soul, the ventriloquist’s dummy that controls the operator.

Through her efficient, purposeful creations and her natural design ability with the added sprinkle of humour, emerges the suspicion that all the discarded creatures of our world have been resurrected in paper and with bright reflective paint over their crinkled skin; they have come back.


Selected Works

  • Joan of ArcJoan of Arc, 2002
  • Collection of DollsCollection of Dolls

Showing all 2 works.