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Joshua Thomas
On the evening of its debut Saturday, artist Julie Takacs views her half of the "6 Frozen Charlottes" exhibit at Klinkhart Hall, Sharon Springs.

Joshua Thomas
Julie Takacs' work as part of "6 Frozen Charlottes".

Joshua Thomas
Julie Takacs' work as part of "6 Frozen Charlottes".

Joshua Thomas
This frozen Charlotte utilizes a textured, crackle finish.


Local artists debut "6 Frozen Charlottes"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - Updated: 9:49 AM


C-S-E Editor

SHARON SPRINGS -- "6 Frozen Charlottes" -- a collaborative gallery piece recently installed at Klinkhart Hall, Main St., Sharon Springs, created by Canajoharie artist Julie Takacs and Starkville artist Wendy Costa -- examines, in a way that merges historical aesthetics to modern context, the story of frozen Charlotte, a little girl whose vanity led to her demise.

The gallery piece was conceived and developed by the two artists to impart and honor the legacy of frozen Charlotte, the tragic protagonist of a mournful story used to warn young girls against willfulness and vanity. Charlotte, a young girl who's only goal was to look good even in the coldest of conditions, went out (unbeknownst to her, for the last time) fancifully, yet inappropriately dressed. The freezing weather led to Charlotte's ultimate, painful demise, her hands frozen at her sides, the young soul transcending time as a vision of unmoving beauty.

Takacs and Costa are no strangers to confronting heady, layered topics in their art. For this display, which followed their well-received installation "Net of Gems", they've successfully considered both historical and modern design aesthetics to create a multi-faceted display that cuts across the expanse of time between Charlotte's demise -- the true beginning of her story -- to her impact on, and relevance to modern culture.

The idea for "6 Frozen Charlottes" sprung organically from the artists' shared fascination not only with decrepit, glorious antique pieces and structures, but also with enduring historical fables, this project truly taking off when Takacs was gifted, by her husband Chris (owner of Fort Plain Antiques) a "ultra tiny little bisque doll with no head."

"I was so intrigued as to the face of this little doll," Takacs explained, adding, "it was the tiniest little doll I had seen."

Months later, at an antiques show, Takacs was drawn to a display loaded with tiny dolls. The owner of the booth housing the little ladies explained that the dolls were "frozen Charlottes," and proceeded to tell the story of Charlotte's intense end.

"I won't lie, I love morbid things," said Takacs, noting that the story was enough to inspire her to purchase the Charlottes. Two months later, a fellow dealer visited Fort Plain Antiques with a gift for Julie.

"I open the bubble wrapped package to find six super tiny little frozen Charlottes in various states of physical disarray. I was so intrigued. I couldn't stop thinking about it. After some web research, I discovered a whole world of lore behind these little dolls." 

Takacs immediately shared a photo with Costa, who was likewise fascinated. Costa, who had recently rented the gallery space at Klinkhart Hall for one year, said of her instant love of Charlotte, "I read the history of the dolls as she suggested and got hooked. There was my connection to facade, narcissism and vanity."

"The process, for me, is easy once I have a title and concept," Costa explained, continuing of the colorful, darkly whimsical piece that forms the center of her display, "I knew I had to work with a front piece that was very garish and sugary, a film porthole, and a treatment for the bottom," adorned with flowery tufts with the dolls on top, "thus the Charlottes in a forest of flowers."

Costa's porthole contains a rare Parisian puppet animation film called "The Devil's Ball," which, hooked to a solar powered car battery, plays on a loop every evening, the battery also powering overhead lights that lend the display an eerie glow as the sun descends.

Takacs described the dual creation process for "6 Frozen Charlottes"; "the two of us communicated in a daily frenzy of trickling mutual consciousness. We both worked on art side by side, sharing, encouraging and growing, respecting and learning."

Costa commented, "What is interesting, I think, from a woman's perspective is, we are both working from intuition, if something is authentic and resonates with us only honestly, then we use it. We are trying to untie the knots of everything else around us that is not authentic to us, to our lives, to our emotions and to our hearts."

The project's ties to history and folklore merged flawlessly with the display space, as Costa explained, "I like the idea of using a space that has no commercial appeal, with no sense of a gallery, no invitations, no electricity and no formality. All the pressure is off and anything can happen."

Takacs' display contains six portraits of the dolls that were gifted to her, including one large portrait utilizing a crackle finish. Her tin-type-style, textured portraits compliment the hand-embellished, antique ladies gloves that point not only to the six Charlottes, but also back to a time when vanity trumped comfort — a time very different, yet, in that sense, much like the one we live in today.

Charlotte, like the stories of countless girls that came before and after her, has often been forgotten or tossed away, especially today.

Takacs said, "The majority of the Charlottes we find today are being culled in Germany, from the grounds of the old doll factory where rejects were tossed into the yard, thrown into the dump, and even stuffed into the walls of the factory for insulation. They were found in dirt most of the time, especially here in the US, where little girls would take them out, and due to their diminutive nature, they would fall to the ground to be buried until uncovered."

"The portraits show the dolls as they might have been found originally, in the dirt covered in leaves, imperfect and decaying," but beautiful and profound, just begging to be unearthed for a new generation.

"6 Frozen Charlottes" is viewable 24-hours a day for the indefinite future. The artists encourage the display's viewers to leave their mark, as they've provided an outdoor notebook and writing utensil.

Joshua Thomas - Wendy Costa's half the "6 Frozen Charlottes" display.

Joshua Thomas - This frozen Charlotte, part of Wendy Costa's display, balances atop a colored tuft.

Joshua Thomas - A frozen Charlotte is lost in "a forest of flowers" in Wendy Costa's display.

Joshua Thomas - "6 Frozen Charlottes" is now on display at Klinkhart Hall, Main St., Sharon Springs.

Joshua Thomas - Detail of Julie Takacs' "6 Frozen Charlottes" display.

Joshua Thomas - Wendy Costa with her "6 Frozen Charlottes" display at Klinkhart Hall, Sharon Springs.


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