Dollhouses and miniatures have long been seen as a form of art and miniature architecture. Since dollhouses were first made, leading artisans have been involved in their creation with many dollhouses taking their rightful place in leading museums around the world. The creativity and artistic designs that go into miniatures and dollhouses continue to amaze and provide a wonderful outlet for both children and adult artistic endeavors. But a dollhouse covered in dust and dirt as a form of art – that takes a little getting used to. Maria Adelaida Lopez, who cleaned houses as a way to pay for her masters degree in art, has created a series of dollhouses using discarded dollhouses and cardboard dollhouses that she made and then covered with dust and dirt from her vacuum cleaner.
After you get over the idea of putting dirt all over dollhouses you can begin to see the haunting statement and a sense of loneliness projected by the collection of dollhouses by Lopez. She calls her collection the “Housekeeping Project” and sees the art pieces as representative of domesticity and humanity at the elemental level. Perhaps the collection should be seen as an ode to the Age of Litter which appears to be a combination of a throw away culture combined with a need to make homes antiseptic and germ free. Or maybe the dust dollhouses are the cataloging of a trashologist or a form of recycling and repurposing cardboard, dirt, and old toys into art.
According to Lopez, she came up with the concept and ideas on how to fabricate the dust dollhouses while living in Minnesota. As an artist and a former house cleaner she saw the dollhouse series as a representation of homes that have been lived in for years but are now abandoned and there is nothing left but the dust and memories. Sort of the American dream gone wrong and an example of the burst housing bubble with homes in foreclosure and abandoned.
The process of creating dust dollhouses starts with simple cardboard miniature structures which Lopez made or with damaged dollhouses which she takes apart. Added architectural elements such as decorative items, windows, doors, and window boxes are all removed. Then Lopez begins the process of covering the remaining structure with dust and dirt until the dollhouses look monochromatic and gray in tone. Lopez states she is looking for viewers to get a physical experience from her art dust dollhouses and hopes the see the poetry in the ugliness. As she states in a poem about the dust dollhouses, “To clean themselves: purification of the soul. To pick them up: my job.”