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Pidgin, the Tiny Icon

Pidgin, the Tiny Icon

Sophy Holland

Joshua David McKenney on the birth of a fashion star

Photography by Sophy Holland. Groomer: Angela Di Carlo.

Some people think grown men shouldn't play with dolls, but artist Joshua David McKenney pays them no mind. After arriving in New York City in 1999 to study fashion and photography, he toiled for a few years as an illustrator (you may have seen his work if you were on Mariah Carey's Christmas card list). Then, four years ago, his ethnically ambiguous doll named Pidgin was born.

"When two people don't speak the same language yet find a way to communicate, that's called pidgin," McKenney explains. He sculpts, then casts each doll in resin, and wires the parts together in his Brooklyn studio. "For a delicate object, it's very physical work," says the modern-day Geppetto. "I consider myself more of a puppeteer than anything, This doll has become the way I express the feminine side of myself."

Like Pinocchio, Pidgin has taken on a life of her own in the real world, with nearly 50,000 Instagram followers. One of her fans recently shared a photo of herself and the doll dressed alike (both with blue hair), and appropriation artist Richard Prince made a poster-sized print of the image for the Frieze Art Fair, snatching $90,000 for it (sans credit to McKenney). The resulting brouhaha got the 22-inch glamour-puss international attention.

"The nice thing about it was it put Pidgin in the discussion about art," McKenney says. We'll see where Pidgin's ambitions take them, but one thing is for sure: She's no mere plaything.

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