An Artist in Wonderland
After a life on the move, Nancy Wiley settles in for her latest whimsical creation.
When Nancy Wiley and family relocated to Canandaigua in 2007, she was on an impromptu sabbatical from making art. After her second child was born, Wiley had taken a break. A health issue extended it. Packing to move to Canandaigua prolonged it and, before she knew it, two years had whizzed by.
So Wiley’s new neighbors didn’t realize that, in certain circles, she was a Big Name. Wiley is considered one of the country’s premiere doll artists—a term that usually conjures wrong impressions. These are art dolls, not toy dolls, for display not play. Her work is exhibited in museums and galleries and is sold privately to collectors.
Wiley’s dolls are inspired by fairy tales, mythology and fine arts and are painstakingly rendered and painted. Some are fashioned from paper, clay or porcelain; others are made from wire frame and padding with sculpted limbs. Costumes, hair, hats and accessories must be carefully glued in place. A lot of steps, layers and time go into creating a single doll. Wiley creates a full range: Her dolls sell from $30 to upwards of $10,000, and her fans include Hollywood stars such as Demi Moore, who even arranged for Wiley to dress her as one of her dolls for a magazine cover shoot.