Intimate Sex Doll Portraits Paint a Disturbing Picture of 'Average Americans'

The average American in 2016 is as misleadingly real as a sex doll, at least according to photographer Stacy Leigh.

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Nov 20 2016, 12:35pm

Images courtesy of Stacy Leigh

This article contains adult content. 

Whatever you may envision the everyday American to be, chances are calculated arrangements of sex dolls aren’t the first images that come to mind. Yet this is the bread & butter of artist Stacy Leigh's photographic series, average americans (that happen to be sex dolls), stunning images of hyper-human sex dolls in often precarious scenarios.

The artist, who purchased her first sex doll in 2004, emphasizes the dolls' eerily human-but-not-quite quality in her works. With a cursory glance, these images could easily be mistaken for snapshots of domestic scenes, portraits of Leigh’s friends, and David LaChapelle-style tableaus. Yet a slowed-down and patient look reveals the uncanny valley feel inherent to these works, completely devoid of human presence, occupied solely by 100-pound silicone dolls with no pulse.

average americans, a continuation of the artist’s 12-year exploration of sex doll photography, almost feels like a random assortment of works, with images stylistically alternating between horizontal and vertical, color and black-and-white, intimate close-ups and highly composed studio scenes. In one shot, a sex doll examines the anatomy of another, removing its prosthetic face to reveal its inner machinations. In another image, a Nan Goldin-esque bedroom shot reveals two sex dolls seemingly post-coitus. In yet another, a doll is dressed like Marie Antoinette with her signature dog on her lap.

The eclectic and wide-ranging output of the series feels like an adequate metaphor for an attempt to describe a society as complex and divided as America is. But despite any similarities that can be drawn between our cultural climate and her series, Leigh admits that she is ultimately telling her own story:

“I was born and raised in New York. I had a pretty typical American existence for someone who grew up poor in the city. My mother was an alcoholic, substance abuser, and my grandma was more of a mother to me than my own mom was,” Leigh reveals to The Creators Project. “In Brooklyn as a youth, I got into trouble… clubs, drugs… I did my thing. Eventually, I grew up, worked on Wall Street, and got married. I guess I use the dolls as a vessel to tell my story. I portray what I know. I am an average American.”

In the words of feminist writer Carol Hanisch, "the personal is political," and even though average americans is in some ways a personal story, Leigh also uses it as a vehicle of social commentary: “I can’t help but think some of the people in the world are starting to look a lot more like dolls than they used to. But that is because it’s celebrated and rewarded to look perfect. The more you look like a doll, the more followers you have,” adds Leigh. “It seems like a lot of unsustainable pressure, to be honest. But I like dolls, so it’s okay with me.”

Stacy Leigh is currently part of a group exhibition on view at Castor Gallery until December 10th. More of the artist’s hyperreal work can be found online here

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