You know your dolls are hip when Courtney Love buys 40 of them and hands them out to her celebrity friends.The painted faces and human hair on the antique-style dolls bring back more than memories to New York artist Dame Darcy. These days, they're helping to reshape her artistic career."Courtney Love bought $2,000 worth at $50 each. And she gave one to Winona Ryder and Sharon Stone. They've been written up in the New York Times and Dolls Magazine," says Darcy, whose creations are part of the The Doll House exhibit at Windsor's Artcite Inc now until Feb. 6.

"At first it was therapeutic," says Darcy. "It was fun to make dolls. And when you're done you've made all these personalities. "She uses those personalities in her video and animation work, some of which will be shown at the Windsor Film Theatre Monday night. "The whole point of TV, movies and animation is to make something that doesn't exist in real life. Movies are about an escape from reality," she says. Darcy prefers handmade dolls and old dolls with personality and soul. "Dolls represent something. Often people with collections, it represents facets of their personality. ... Dolls get older but they don't age like the rest of us," she says."I think everyone buys them because they don't have a grammy that makes rag dolls. Dolls are the ideal friends. And dolls can live the life you never had." At the Artcite exhibit, the dolls on display represent art objects and refer to social and historical issues, says curator Mark Laliberte. "Dolls can speak to a broad range of people. Everyone has a history of dolls. Dolls speak to them in one way or another. They can look at issues of identity, gender, body politics and high art / low culture."

Melissa Mazar, a University of Windsor fine arts student, says her dolls represent the transition from childhood to adulthood. The plain stuffed dolls with oversized arms and legs all have names and belong to a collection called Horror/Whimsy. "The dolls are more symbolic. ... But looking back (adolescence) was definitely the most horrible time in my life." Mazar says she had anorexia for six years and now finds art an outlet for her concerns about the suppression of womanhood. And despite the starkness of her work, she wants children to view her work. "A doll is often this cutesy thing but I don't think childhood is like that," she says. Other artists in the exhibit include Catherine Heard of Toronto; Magdalen Celestino of Toronto (originally from Windsor) and Francoise Duvivier from France.