States of being
Local artist explores intimacy and vulnerability through her paintings
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
Jan 24, 2013 | 5708 views | 0 0 comments | 227 227 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘ACOUSTIC SHADOW’ – 2011, Oil on mylar mounted on plexiglass, 21.5 x 29.”
view slideshow (3 images)

At the end of a long low-lit corridor with gray industrial floors on the fifth floor of the Neumann Building in Hoboken, you’ll come across a brightly lit studio filled with paintings by local resident and artist Michelle Doll. Many of the paintings are self-portraits that explore different states of being whether windswept, cold, or seemingly submerged – suspended in a one moment of time or another. The individual emotion and sensory experience captured in each painting leaps out at the viewer and can take them to the feelings of cold, surrendering, or loss.

Last week the Reporter sat down with Doll to discuss her approach to painting, inspiration, and upcoming projects.

Recurring themes

“When I think about my work over the last 10 years, the common thread is intimacy,” said Doll.

Despite shifts in her work over time, she describes intimacy and vulnerability as recurring themes.

“So whether it is walking down the street and something catches my eye or in the moment of my everyday routine,” noted Doll. “I try and appreciate those moments.”

Doll exposes whatever “specialness” exists in those moments through her work.

“It can be walking and that feeling of the wind on your face and the vulnerability of the atmosphere,” said Doll.

She added that, “There is a vulnerability in the process of how I paint.”

Doll takes an unattached approach to her work and allows herself freedom from the end result. She employs a certain degree of fearlessness.

“If something starts to become too precious or too perfect for me…to mess that up a bit seems more real,” noted Doll. “I try and let go.”

Transient states

“I am interested in conveying all emotions and aspects of what it feels like to be a human,” noted Doll.

In “Somnambulent Shift,” a woman appears suspended in darkness, almost submerged, as if she is holding her breath under water.

“I love that everyone feels that about that,” said Doll in response to the perception of water. “It is whatever you want it to be.”

“Somnambulent Shift” is part of a recent series of work that Doll is in the process of completing before moving on to other pending projects.

“These are metaphoric for transient states…of being,” noted Doll.

In response to the use of herself as the subject, she said, “I happen to use myself a lot as a vehicle because I like painting people and I am available.”

“I was always interested in drawing people,” said Doll. “Whether it be from photographs or drawing people from life. I’ve always had an interest in human beings.”

Self discovery

“It has just been something that I have always done,” said Doll about when she discovered her creative self. “You put a piece of paper and a pencil in front of me and I was lost in it.”

Doll found herself traveling east with her son from Ohio in 2004 to pursue a Master’s Degree at the New York Academy of Art. She grew up in North Canton and sought a close-knit, family vibe, which is how she eventually ended up in Hoboken in 2006 after first living in Weehawken.

“I am a single mom and I really, really liked the community,” said Doll about Hoboken. “I thought it was great for my son. It seemed very safe, very welcoming.”

“I didn’t know anybody,” noted Doll about when she first arrived. “But I loved their (New York Academy of Art) program and because I had always been interested in the figure I wanted to have that knowledge and understanding of anatomy and the old master techniques.”

Doll has taken the techniques she has learned and “put them toward this more contemporary dialogue in art.”

The same year that she moved to town, Doll secured a space at the Neumann Building.

“I live five blocks from my studio so it is really nice,” said Doll. She described the community as having a small pool of artists, which provides for greater recognition.

“It has been a wonderful experience,” said Doll of working out of Neumann. “Having the support of the local community of artists here…Fantastic. We are always doing studio exchanges and critiques.”

Doll has divided the 700-square-foot studio into two sections, one where she works and the other where she gives private painting and drawing lessons to individuals in small group sessions. Doll also paints portraitures and teaches at New Jersey City University.

Doll has been featured in many exhibits both locally, in New York, and abroad. She will be featured in an upcoming exhibit called “Ladies” at Krane Gallery in the Lower East Side in Manhattan.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

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