Try to look away from the freaky, rubberneck-worthy toy art sculptures of Australian artist Freya Jobbins.
Freya Jobbins will definitely leave a lasting impression with the amazing craftsmanship and inventiveness her toy art displays. Jobbins, you see, dismembers dolls and uses discarded toys to create sculptures. While doll parts and toys may seem like cute and fun materials to work with, in her hands they transform into the unexpected.
The Touchable Becomes Untouchable
Jobbins primarily uses recycled materials for her sculptures. It’s her own “little contribution to recycle-and-reuse” that also keeps costs down. “Very expensive toys I can get for a dollar or two dollars. It’s incredible. Some people paid $36 for this doll ($36 initially), and then I get it for a dollar,” she told Crixeo. “And the materials aren’t hard to come by… [They’re] easily accessible because we are all so materialistic. We overindulge our children, so new toys are generally recycled quicker because they lose their appeal when a new one comes into the market. So I have a stream of materials at hand.” The use of recycled toys and doll parts for Jobbins’ toy art can also affect the viewer personally as it makes you consider your part in overindulgence. “People look back at their own wastage, you know. It’s got a lot of meaning to it, but it’s secondhand. Everything has a story,” she said.
Jobbins’ work began with used toys, but she moved on to include doll parts because the plastics are “much softer and easier to manipulate.” She also likes that the dolls are pink — like flesh — because it generates a more disturbing response from people than toys do. In her collection of toy art pieces, heads are a centerpiece, and a head sculpture can take a minimum of two months to create. She made one of the first female Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard — it was purchased by her best friend. And Jobbins’ Medusa is fantastic with its various-sized doll arms and legs for snakes and the multitude of doll hands encircling her neck.
And then there’s Jobbins’ creepy caravan, which she refers to as “absolutely insane,” while being “divorce material” given its size and the fact that her husband hates hitching it to the car trailer and driving for hours to an exhibition. It’s full of unusual creations, and she admits it would “freak you out” if you came across it without knowing it’s an art piece.
Whether taken at face value or with a deeper consumerism-critical lens, one thing is undeniable: each of Jobbins’ one-of-a-kind sculptures is made with such intricacy, it’s no surprise she regrets letting some of them go.
“I made Frida and she’s gone to Italy. I liked her. It was quite sad,” Jobbins said, adding a similar sentiment for her Effie head.
Responding to Jobbins’ Toy Art
Jobbins finds the response to her work is good because she holds the viewer’s attention for longer than seven seconds, which she says is the average time a person can hold someone’s interest. “I have people who stand there for over 10 minutes and just look,” she said. It’s the details that draw people in, and Jobbins likens the experience to a car crash.
“I’m very proud of my technique and my skill and craftsmanship that goes into it, so I like the quality of my work and the standard of it. I think other people appreciate that too because it’s repetitious, detailed — extremely detailed,” she said. “Then also, it’s like a car crash, you know when someone drives past, they all stare, they all rubberneck, knowing they really shouldn’t look, but they do. It’s the same with the artwork. It’s a rubberneck-artwork really.”
You do need more than seven seconds to admire a Jobbins creation because part of the fun is discovering that a nostril, for example, is never just a nostril. It’s something else that references a nostril. Same goes for feet or lips. She finds that the more challenging it is for someone, the better.
When Jobbins set out to make her horse, modeled after the Viking horse Skinfaxi, at least 500 Barbie dolls lost their hands. When she collected the dolls, they all had to be the same, “because that’s what [I do]…so that the patterning is the same…and not all Barbie hands are the same,” she said. The right-hand side has Barbie’s right hands only, and on the left, only left hands. The hooves have faces on them. As for the tail, it’s Barbie’s legs and hands, and it swishes.
Jobbins also made sure, during the four months it took to make the horse, to add a piece so you know it’s a boy. She loves the shock value that including “private bits” adds to her toy art pieces, but it’s not always obvious. For a bunny rabbit, she used a boy doll’s privates to create its nose.
“People just gasp,” Jobbins said.
When she got a little too literal with one sculpture’s private parts, the reception from galleries wasn’t one of acceptance but censorship.
The pink, fleshlike color of the doll parts lends itself perfectly to Jobbins’ Zeus, creating a downright unsettling, anatomically-correct sculpture. Every piece of Zeus is a doll part carefully laid out and planned to relate to a part of the body. Jobbins made him as part of her Greek Gods series. Given that Zeus was a woman chaser who got into plenty of trouble, there was one piece of his body that had to be memorable: the penis.
“Zeus mainly focused on his you-know-what — his penis. So the head was specifically built so that he’s looking down at his private bits, and his private bits were actually in a different continuation” than what is shown in galleries, Jobbins said. Why? Because galleries wouldn’t display him with an erection. Jobbins had to change it to a “flaccid little brick penis, just to calm people down.” There was one gallery in Australia who gave the original Zeus penis its full due, but his “front bits” were facing a corner and you couldn’t walk around him for a 360-degree full-frontal view. Jobbins is very attached to Zeus and still has him, with his original penis, in her studio.
With every Jobbins’ toy art creation, there’s something unique and strange to discover. And you’ve got to approach her work with a carefree attitude. “Put your laughing glasses on. That’s the important thing, don’t take it too seriously,” Jobbins recommends.