Photo by: Bernadette Frances Dugas
Who: Bernadette Frances Dugas
Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: On a bench in Jackson Square right before closing
Q: How can you become a part of something without ever experiencing it?
A: A lot of the things we experience we’ve never actually been a part of. When I look at my dolls, they’re broken dolls, and I have to say that every woman I’ve ever known in my life has been a broken doll at some point in their life. Whether we’ve been broken by a lover, a family member, a job, or if we’ve broken ourselves trying to bust through the glass ceiling or for our children, we’re all broken dolls.
With that, I don’t mean to say we’re broken and not worthy, but quite the opposite. It makes us stronger. We grow from those experiences, and we even grow from the experiences we’ve never been a part of.
Sometimes — based off what we’ve seen or experienced — our head is in our stomach or over our hearts. Sometimes we leave a piece of ourselves with something else, and we can still function and be beautiful without it. That’s the thing with the dolls. The faces are beautiful, no matter how shattered they are, and that’s how this all started.
I’ve always been into the arts. When I was in fourth grade my mama taught me how to sew. I never wanted to make anything from a pattern. I wanted to create things that there was no pattern for. I had just finished working on a theater production, and I needed to create—whenever I have time and space, I’m creating. I started making the dolls. I found that I needed hair, so I started getting these porcelain dolls and ripping their hair off. I dropped one of the dolls, and when I picked it up and held her broken face in my hands, I saw how beautiful she was.
The rest of the doll was intact, and she had these two little boobs, and I ended up making those her eyes, and it was just perfect. You think about the Miettes de Poppets (the crumbs of dolls), and the crumbs that are left from being shattered are just as tasty and good. Those broken parts are what make us intriguing.
Q: What would you say often soothes you?
A: The rain. A breeze. And gentle company of good friends. Not rowdiness with friends, which can be fun, but it’s not necessarily soothing. So gentle friends.
And I have to create. I was on the Internet the other day looking at photographs because they often inspire me. I found the story of this woman in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph. She found out that her son—age ten—had stomach cancer. There were all of these photos of her working with him.
She was with him through it all, and the photographs showed her by his side at each stage. You saw him deteriorate in these photographs, and she was there the whole time. Talk about a strong woman.
Q: Tell me a story that involves (a) broken bones (b) a large amount of blood or (c) a wrecked bike?
A: I broke my wrist, but that didn’t slow me down or affect me. I was in a hurry because I’m always in a hurry, and I missed a step going out of my house. I put my arm out—like we do—to stop my fall. That’s the only bone I’ve ever broken in my body.
It’s interesting you asked about bikes because my friend, my sister, and I are all going to get bikes and start exercising. I used to love to ride bikes, but I haven’t been on one in forever. I thought it would be great for all of us to do this together. I love my sister dearly, I want her to stay healthy, and so I thought bikes would be wonderful. We can ride all around Thibodaux.
Q: If you could make your own body parts out of different materials, what would you choose?
A: I would use all natural materials. Branches. Moss. I don’t like plastics or synthetics. Some of my dolls have branches for arms, and some of them I put moss for their lady parts, so I guess it depends on where I would put things for my self.
But it would be natural tones, and flowers, and all things from the Earth. I would use stones for my eyes. I’d have to find blue stones. I’m partial to blue eyes because mine are blue.
I don’t ever want to stop being me. I don’t ever want to be fake. All these faults are mine, and I’m far from perfect, but I work around things and learn from those so-called faults.
Bernadette Frances Dugas will be debuting her “Mistresses of Mayhem” series along with her “Miettes de Poppets” at Hall-Barnett (237 Chartres Street) on October 8, which is an exhibit open to the public. You can view Bernadette’s “Miettes de Poppets” and “Padou’s Cajun Poppets” on her website as well as follow her on Facebook and through IMBD.