. . . something about the figures, in the artwork in the bottom posts, reminded us of the ‘zombie’, or really ‘black nanny’ dolls of JEFF HARGRAVE – who we happened to run into recently !!

Jeff 2009 # 1
he recently dropped by ATM GALLERY, that’s a TOMOO GOKITA painting behind him !!

Jeff 2009 # 2
JEFF HARGRAVE, has a pretty funny sense of humor, (unlike a few others, I won’t mention, in this stressed-out town !!), so, when we told him – he looked like a – black snowman – he lightened up !!

Jeff 2009 # 3
among other kinds of more traditional artwork – like painting and collage – Jeff, who hails from somewhere around New Orleans, makes his own contemporary versions of ‘Black Nanny’ dolls. this one – is the devil with voodoo pins !!
sexuality ? – well, y-o-u call it !!
one thing’s for sure – it’s on fire !!
actually, ‘Black Nanny’ dolls are traditional, traditional ole-time African American folk art – a combination of being too poor to buy store-bought dolls, and who wants store-bought white dolls, to hug & cherish – anyways, when that was your oppressor ?
the little doll, top center, with the white bonnet & red necklace (both – added after the fact) is a classic antique American black Nanny Doll, from the south – and made much the same way Jeff’s are. hand-sewn and then turned inside-out, and painted black.
ok. yep that’s (just a small part) of my black nanny doll collection, with a few little white dolls, thrown in, just to keep the conversation in the bookcase – lively !! the big one at the right is a souvenir doll – what you might buy if you visited the Caribbean islands, later half of the last century. I stitched the fabric doll ‘heart’ head – that’s peeking through !!

nancy doll
NANCY SMITH, stitched doll head. 1996. ok I made that.

bermuda doll
a vintage souvenir Black Nanny doll from Bermuda, – made much the same way as Jeff makes his.
he picked up the tradition & skills from his surroundings, growing up in the south.

Jeff 2009 # 3
ok. we let the little devil out for some fresh air.
Collection: Nancy Smith

Jeff # 5
JEFF HARGRAVE, Black Nanny voodoo ‘devil’ doll. Jeff stuck the pins in, not I !!
Black Nanny dolls were made at the same time that white folks, and black folks – were making quilts.
but, they were nowhere as scary as this.

Jeff # 6
JEFF HARGRAVE – detail. contemporary, hand-painted face Black Nanny voodoo ‘devil’ doll – very traditional in the rendering & materials !!

nanny doll
not as scary ? take that back !!
well, sometimes she looks mad and angry, and then sometimes – if you hold her just so, she is quite endearing ??
American antique hand-sewn Black Nanny doll. The body of the doll is based on an old & very worn-out !! pair of commercially made (store-bought) black mens socks – stuffed with raw cotton. The face, the red nostrils and red mouth, with white teeth, is hand-embroidered, while the eyes are (real abalone) & I guess therefore store bought – shell buttons, what buttons used to be made of, before plastics.
Collection: Nancy Smith

close-up nanany doll
. . . think on, what the maker of this doll – was feeling !!

black doll
sitting up, feeling the homey vibes – she seems to strike a happier countenance !!

doll close-up
. . . dig that bosom !! and, the hands posed just so, on the hips !!


you can see JEFF HARGRAVE with a few more of his contemporary Black Nanny dolls, in 2005: here !!
(you’ll have to scroll down a bit)
we first saw Jeff’s Black Nanny dolls at a small exhibit way – back in the day, at ATM gallery, when it was on Ave B in the East Village. Jeff says he doesn’t make too many any more – if any !! – he says – he hates doing all that tiny stitching !!