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Big Daddy Paper Doll

May Stevens

Contemporary Art

May Stevens has been a committed political activist throughout her long career. Her Big Daddy series began in response to her disappointment and anger over the Vietnam War. For Stevens, Big Daddy takes on aspects of both the personal and the political. Based on a portrait of her resolutely patriotic father, the obviously male figure is also reminiscent of President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Here, the figure’s bullet-shaped head exaggerates his phallic power and capacity for violence. However, by depicting him as a paper doll, to be dressed up as an executioner, decorated soldier, policeman, or butcher, Stevens ultimately strips Big Daddy of his patriarchal command.
MEDIUM Acrylic on canvas
DATES 1970
DIMENSIONS Canvas: 72 x 168 in. (182.9 x 426.7 cm): not framed  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS Inscriptions verso on strainers: "May Stevens/ Mau Stevens/ 97 Wooster Street/ New York 10012/ Title: Big Daddy Paper Doll. 1970/ Acrylic on canvas" in red paint.
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. S. Zachary Swidler
PROVENANCE By 1975, acquired from the artist by Lerner-Heller Gallery, New York, NY; 1975, purchased from Lerner-Heller Gallery by S. Zachary Swidler and Bea Swidler (Mrs. S. Zachary Swidler) of New York, NY; gift of S. Zachary Swidler and Bea Swidler to the Brooklyn Museum.
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MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION May Stevens (American, 1924–2019). Big Daddy Paper Doll, 1970. Acrylic on canvas, Canvas: 72 x 168 in. (182.9 x 426.7 cm): not framed. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. S. Zachary Swidler, 75.73. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 75.73_PS2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 75.73_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © May Stevens, Courtesy of RYAN LEE, New York
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