Watch the video above: Artist supports LGBT athletes with rainbow-themed Russian nesting dolls. Angie Seth reports.
They are unique, colourful, and carry with them a real sense of pride. Brahm Finkelstein, a copywriter who lives in Leslieville has sold hundreds of matryoshkas – or Russian nesting dolls – over the last few weeks.
It’s an idea that sprung up during Russia’s anti-gay ruling last year. Finkelstein was sitting in a Toronto-area Russian bar at the time and the big topic of discussion was Russia’s anti-gay propaganda legislation.
Several traditional Russian nesting dolls were being displayed there, and with the Sochi 2014 games around the corner, Finkelstein came up with the idea to create a pride nesting doll in support of the LBGTQ athletes.
“The bar actually had these matryoshka dolls, a whole bunch of different sets of them, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if someone created an LGBT themed version.’ Sort of as a throwback to Russia,” he said. “Everyone thought it was a great idea, so I thought you know what might as well act on it.”
Each doll is hand painted with rainbow colours with the main doll as the Queen Diva. The smaller dolls represent what Finkelstein calls the silver fox, the woman or lesbian, the friendly bear, another male or female doll, finally to the hunky guy. All of them in the same rainbow theme.
“The inspiration for the smallest one was played off of Freddie Mercury because he is sort of the hero inside everyone,” Finkelstein says. “He sort of brought the LGBT and gay community to the limelight. Other have made likeness to the larger doll, the red doll being close to the likeness of Putin, and we’ll take it.”
The paint on the dolls is non-toxic and the wood is a soft lotus wood. Each doll takes about 45 days to make and the response locally and abroad has been overwhelming, he said, as over 300 dolls have been sold worldwide.
“We really just want the doll to be sort of the message of equality and for people to show their pride through the use of these dolls. Finkelstein says. I am a straight ally. You don’t necessarily need to be gay to show your support and think these dolls really do that. ”
Daniel Cohen is the owner of the Arts Market and sells some of the dolls in his shop. Cohen says he was thrilled to hear about Finkelstein’s idea and excited to have it available in his store.
“So there has always been something like ‘why would you do the dolls, that’s promoting Russia and everything they’ve done, and your still promoting it,’” he said. “But that just adds to the conversation and art is about conversation. And it’s about the positive and it’s about the challenges and it’s about bringing together nice conversation, getting together good constructive criticism. ”
City Councillor Paula Fletcher says she is a big fan of the nesting dolls and plans to bring a bunch of them to the next council meeting at city hall.
Proceeds from the dolls will go to the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA). The association holds World Out Games across the country. Finkelstein says he hopes the dolls will be part of the next games in 2017 in Miami.
Until then Finkelstein says he plans to bring the dolls to Toronto gay pride parade as well as the 2015 Pan Am Games.