Earlier this week, Amber Hawk Swanson spent her final day on South Beach with her sex doll.The dark-haired 27 year old lounged for one last photo shoot with Amber Doll, the 115 pound-plus silicone figure that was molded from her face.
The sisterly pair sported matching white glam shades. The doll wore a bikini with the word, love, printed on one breast. Amber dressed in a flirty, red sundress. “We’re done, a total wrap,” the Chicago multimedia artist said after the final photos were snapped on a gorgeous sunny day with a postcard-ready blue sky.
Past moments captured when artist and doll went roller-skating, married each other, and sat in on tailgate parties are featured in, “To Have, To Hold, and To Violate: Amber and Doll,” an exhibition at Locust Projects in Wynwood. It opened this Saturday and will show through June 28.
Amber ordered the doll nearly two years ago and before the October 2007 release of Lars and the Real Girl, a movie in which a lonely man orders a sex doll he embraces as his girlfriend. “I was really attached to the idea of embodying victim and victimizer simultaneously,” she explains. “She’s actually just body number 8 with my face. Our bodies aren’t identical. She has this perfect Barbie doll figure and I certainly don’t.”
In the months before her arrival, Amber began cruising sex doll websites. “There’s a community of primarily men who are online and chatting about dolls and it’s really kind of innocent and friendly. I felt a real affinity to these men at the time.” Single then, her interest in the doll became personal. “I was imagining that she would fulfill these emotional needs of mine,” Amber says.
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Whether it’s the Exxxotica Convention in Miami Beach or tailgating in Chicago, reactions are similar across geography and gender. Videos at the exhibition show bundled Bears fans humping the doll and peeking at her crotch while, in Miami Beach, Girls Gone Wild in hotpants lustily drape themselves over the doll. “There’s usually group of people who approach the doll,” she says. “Almost always, a leader of violation and a protector emerges. There’s usually someone who is like, ‘Check it out,’ or ‘Oh my gosh. Stop! You can’t do that to her.’”
Perhaps the strangest reaction she noted in Miami was aggression. At the gallery opening, a man whacked the doll who was laid out in a casket with fresh flowers around her. “People enjoy punching Amber Doll but I’ve never seen anyone wind up and really go at it this way,” Amber says. “Her jaw tore. It was a bit shocking to watch.”
On Wednesday, Amber headed back Chicago. She left Amber in Miami. It will be the first time the pair have been separated since Amber ordered the doll. She had been hanging on a stand in the artist’s spare bedroom in her Chicago apartment. (Her silicone body crinkles up if she’s not upright.) “I just left the gallery for the last time,” Amber says. “I definitely have a little pull on the heart strings. My emotions really kind of vacillate between those leftover feelings over this expectations. She’s this doll whose had a huge impact on my life.”