My Life as A Doll

Tara Conley – “My Life as a Doll”

The Houston Museum of African American Culture – January 30 through March 29, 2015

Initially shown at Diverseworks in 2011, My Life as a Doll has been reimagined by Conley for HMAAC. Her intent, however, is essentially the same; to lure museum visitors into a candy colored fantasy residence detailing the life of a woman who lives as if she were a doll. In this built environment, Conley is able to engage audiences in a discussion about power structures and gender distinctions that take root early in life and continue to shape us as adults. While visitors are free to define the woman and her state of mind, Conley uses sculpture and text to leave clues revealing a life narrative of diminished identity existing in personal spaces controlled by someone else.

According to Conley, “There are added dimensions to the installation owing to its placement at HMAAC that allow it to more clearly reflect a shared multicultural fantasy.” HMAAC CEO John Guess, Jr. added, “We wanted the many young girls and their families who will visit this dollhouse to have the opportunity to not only explore gender identity but to further comprehend manifestations of gender inequality that are part of contemporary societal constructs.”

The installation will be accompanied by an artist talk at the museum on January 31 at 4:00 PM, a documentary film by Sharon Ferranti, a panel discussion and periodic artist tours to be scheduled. “Many times African American girls gender inequality gets overshadowed by racism,” Guess said, “and we’re delighted to bring these conversations under one roof with this installation.”


The mission of HMAAC is to collect, conserve, explore, interpret, and exhibit the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African Americans in Houston, the state of Texas, the southwest and the African Diaspora for current and future generations. In fulfilling its mission, HMAAC seeks to invite and engage visitors of every race and background and to inspire children of all ages through discovery-driven learning. HMAAC is to be a museum for all people. While our focus is the African American experience, our story in Texas informs and includes not only people of color, but people of all colors. As a result, the stories and exhibitions that HMAAC will bring to Texas are about the indisputable fact that while our experience is a unique one, it has been impacted by and has impacted numerous races, genders and ethnicities.