An African American Barbie clad in a Bob Mackie design creates a spectacular burst of color. The doll is part of an extensive collection on display at the C. Williams Rush Gallery of African-American Arts and Culture. The exhibit spans a century and features current, vintage, ethnic and one-of-a-kind dolls. Photo by Michaele Duke
Cassandra Rush's extensive doll collection is a compilation of old and new, simple and elaborate designs. And a portion of her collection is currently on exhibit at C. Williams Rush Gallery of African-American Arts and Crafts in Kingstree.
Rush has been collecting dolls since the mid 1980s. While working as an engineer for Bell South, Rush entered her vintage and antique dolls in a competition in 1984 and placed first in her catgory. From that moment she was hooked and her interest in the medium has not slowed.
Her most prized pieces have been exhibited at Benedict and Morris Brown Colleges, Las Vegas, the Florence Museum and the Columbia Library. And though her collection numbers close to a thousand, she hand selected a portion for the exhibit.
Most of the dolls are the creations of noteable German and African-American doll artists. Rush points to a simple handcrafted doll which she considers one of her favorites. The red-checkerd dress and unadorned face is by artist Adrienne Annette McDonald. The late fiber artist's creations are comprised of found objects and materials. However, a closer look reveals skilled hand needle work. "The most spectacular thing about this is she hand-beaded the hair," said Rush of the crown of colorful glass beads. The artist's whimsical creations are finished with a hand-written note bearing the name she'd given it.
Another beautiful doll is that of an African child. Seated in a chair with head bent in what may be contemplative thought, the young girl is nearly mistaken as real, down to her skin scarification.
The exhibit also includes Rush's extensive collection of antique and vintage pieces. The assemblage - some over a hundred years old - is sequestured from the other groups which is a clear indication of her love for them. Some dolls such as Frozen Charlotte (c. 1850 - 1920), are so small a handfull can fit in the palm of your hand. Others proclaim the boundless love of a child through their fragile tattered bodies.
From dramatic to demure, Rush's doll exhibit is a lesson in art, history and creativity and certain to captivate and amaze. The collection is on display at Rush's gallery at 200 Hampton Avenue in Kingstree until September 30. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information on group visits contact Rush at (803) 397-1859.