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Greer Lankton (1958-1996) was an American artist, whose work was dedicated to creating lifelike, posable dolls and figures. Greer Lankton was born Greg Lankton in Flint, Michigan, to a Presbyterian minister and his wife. Greer had a rough childhood, and was picked on for being feminine. It was during her childhood that she began creating dolls. "It was when I was about ten years old ... I used to make dolls out of hollyhocks and all types of flowers. Pipecleaner dolls and things like that. I started taking it seriously by the time I went to college when I was 17."
Greer changed her name and had her sexual reassignment surgery at the age of 21, which was paid for by her father's church. Gender and sexuality are recurring themes in her art. Her dolls are created in the likeness of those society calls "freaks", and have often been compared to the surrealist works of Hans Bellmer, who made surreal dolls with interchangeable limbs. She created figures that were simultaneously distressing and glamorous, as if they were both victim and perpetrator of their existence.
In 1981 Lankton was featured in the seminal "New York/New Wave" exhibition at P.S.1 in Long Island City, and began to show her work in the East Village at Civilian Warfare. Greer was friends with photographer Nan Goldin, and lived in her apartment in the early 80's, often posing for her. She also played muse to photographers like David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar.
It was in New York that she met artist Paul Monroe. They quickly became inseparable, and she moved into his apartment and started working in his shop, Einsteins. Her next solo featured a number of portrait dolls, including one of her and Paul in bed (a la Yoko and John). Greer and Paul married in 1987. Teri Toye was the bridesmaid, Nan Goldin took the wedding photos, and Greer’s father was the minister.
"Greer was one of the pioneers who blurred the line between folk art and fine art." She had spots in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale, both in 1995, where her busts of Candy Darling, circus fat ladies, and dismembered heads gained her notoriety.
Besides her more emotionally charged dolls, Lankton also created commissioned portrait dolls, including Teri Toye and Diana Vreeland, as well as shrines to her icons, such as Candy Darling. She gained an almost cult following among East Village residents from her highly theatrical window displays she designed for Einstein's.
Lankton struggled with drug addiction and anorexia for many years, eventually becoming sick. She died on November 18, 1996 of a drug overdose. Her final show, It's All About Me, Not You, has become a permanent installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. Lankton had only one protégé, Jojo Baby, who continues to make dolls in Chicago.