It is relevant to Rosenquist’s large doll paintings that in his late 50’s he had a 3-year-old daughter. In both the subject chosen (the doll) and the issue broached (the AIDS crisis), underlying the Gift Wrapped Doll series is a general concern for the well-being of future generations. The gift wrap may be interpreted in two different ways: On one hand the wrap can be seen as the protection without which the doll cannot go out into the universe. On the other hand, the wrapping suffocates the doll, thwarting its ability to perceive and experience the outside world. These opposing forces are not unlike what a parent might feel about their child’s interaction with the world. “These paintings are about being protected, but they are also about being smothered. They are about being pulled about life in babyhood, almost, but they are also about the fires of rage and resistance that can blaze up at an early age” (John Russell, “A Painter Finds That Dolls Can Be Dynamite,” The New York Times, April 11, 1993, p. H30). In The Serenade for the Doll after Claude Debussy, Gift Wrapped Doll #19 the idealized and exaggerated features of the of the Kewpie doll are distorted by the iridescent cellophane that distorts her face behind rainbow hues. “The image is fresh, disturbing and psychologically complex. It provides a powerful metaphor for the danger of AIDS and the more general perils of sexuality and intimacy in our troubled times” (Eleanor Heartney, “Malevolent Dolls,” ARTnews, Summer 1998, p. 167).
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