Young Artists 2023 Art

How a ‘Cursed’ Doll Embodies the Aesthetic of Rising Painter Connor Marie Stankard


In the fourth grade, Connor Marie Stankard found an American Girl doll catalog in the mailbox of her Ames, Iowa home. She begged her parents to buy her one, but the dolls were too expensive. So she made her own, molding clay and stuffing it into a sock. “A cursed doll,” jokes Stankard.

Today, she sees this as the crystallization of her art-making impulse: wanting something out of reach—an idol of some perfect girl, a simulation with no original—and making her own fucked-up version instead.

Connor Marie Stankard, Chloe, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and Lubov.

Stankard’s 2022 solo show at Lubov, “Ava, Chloe, Blair, Nicole” presented paintings of girls with contorted and utterly possessed-looking faces. Chloe, 2022, bares eyes the shape of car headlights. Taylor Jeanne, 2022, has sickly, lavender-tinted skin.

As references, the artist uploaded images—of friends, strangers, Lily-Rose Depp—onto Artbreeder, online GAN software that can warp faces according to categories such as “emotion,” “earrings,” or “age.” Stankard’s subjects are vampiric, but too vapid to be lethal. They’re glamorous, in the way that luxury aesthetics often tease danger (cuteness is for the middle class). And “they’re not self-portraits, but they are autobiographical,” acquiesces Stankard.


The 31-year-old doesn’t make work about the Internet so much as she uses its methods of constructing meaning as the operational logic of her practice. Screenshots from an eBay listing and her Instagram “Explore” page served as two references for a painting I saw in her Chinatown studio for Night Gallery’s Frieze London presentation this fall. That a woman isn’t an entity so much as an aggregation of circulating images—“a chimera”—feels uniquely digital.

As we stood in front of a naturalistic sketch of the writer Olivia Kan-Sperling, I winced when Stankard told me she planned to slice the image to create “some combination of half a face, and then [on] the next panel, abstraction, ultimately creating these exquisite corpses.”

Connor Marie Stankard, Taylor Jeanne, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist and Lubov.

It’s a pun on the parlor game, as well as a literal corpse: as if these effigies of downtown debutantes could serve as body doubles, taking the hit as corporate and misogynist fantasies, even violent ones, are flung onto them. Stankard says she wants to distill a kind of “build-a-girl” recipe, the myth that a combination of the right signifiers—a pouty lower-lip, a Dior anti-aging mask—makes a girl. Or rather, the image of one.

So, why not butcher them? “Images can really take a lot of abuse,” she said. “This is the safe realm of an artwork—a fantasy which is not the real.”

For more about CULTURED's 2023 Young Artists, read our features with Adraint Khadafhi BerealGiangiacomo Rossetti, and Emma Stern.