From her first life-sized painting in Los Angeles to opening her solo museum exhibition, I have watched Dorian Lynde create “No Damsel.” It is a groundbreaking series that forces us to rethink what we know about Disney princesses and about the representations of women we show to our children. Shortly after finishing her installation of the show at CAM, I sat down with the Canadian-born artist.
For the last two years I have watched the development of this project. What has been your artistic process?
It began as outdoor wall paintings around downtown Los Angeles to re-imagine the princesses as modern women. The response was really positive, and I decided to develop the idea further. I learned that there was so much more than just altering their images and iconography.
Can you take me through the history behind the princesses?
Animated films were made up of about 500,000 hand-painted images (animation “cels”), and the process was segregated by gender at Disney Studios. Women were not hired for any creative positions. However, women were hired in the ink and paint department, which was extremely difficult. The Disney princesses had no women that were contributing to them, resulting in one-dimensional characters that mainly cooked, cleaned, sang, and got married.
The project has so many layers but what I really love is how even in its simplest form, it is a strong project. Then you go deeper and it becomes more complex.
I wanted to create a work that was easily accessible, especially to young women. The imagery is simple and easy to understand, but the more you learn, the more compelling it becomes. The exhibition at CAM is something that you can spend five minutes or five hours in, taking in the paintings, video, sketches and animation cels.
Tell me more about the animation cels.
The women in the ink and paint department spent countless hours creating them. The early Disney films would not exist without them, but their contributions have gone ignored and erased. I had to create my own as an homage to these forgotten artists.
I found that the materials needed were extremely rare—the special vinyl paint used is now made in only one place in the U.S. The process is extremely difficult and delicate.
Do you see yourself continuing to work with this medium?
Absolutely. I’ve never seen it used in a fine art context, and I love the way they look—the colors are extremely vibrant.
Lastly, what has made you the happiest about working with CAM and showing your work in Raleigh?
I love Raleigh, and CAM is an unbelievably forward-thinking museum. There’s nowhere I’d rather show
these princesses than here. Exhibiti
ons Director Eric Gaard and Executive Director Gab Smith have done
so much for both the museum
and the city and are great visionaries. “No Damsel” works well with their many youth engagement programs, and I’m so happy I got the opportunity to work with them.