Great State: Faceless Dolls
FAIRVIEW, OKLAHOMA — She starts with a block of soft balsa. Linda Rous isn’t a trained carver but there is a purpose to her work. “I’m on a mission,” chuckles a small framed lady with a beaded pony tail. “I’m on more of a mission than ever.”
For nearly 40 years she traveled the art show circuit selling oil paintings. She and her husband moved to Fairview. Travel slowed down and her art went in a new direction. Linda started listening to the old stories her Iroquois grandmother used to tell her. She began researching other tribes and their folklore, and she started making these curious dolls, intricate in every detail except the face. Those she left blank. “It spooks some people,” admits Rous. “They walk past them or they get up close like they can’t believe what they’re seeing and back off, but others are fascinated.” “The message of the ‘No Face’ is that what is in the heart is more important than how you look.”
Part of her stated mission is to kill off what she calls the ‘Hollywood’ tribe, the one she saw in old movies and the one that still hangs on in the popular American imagination. “They all wear feather headdresses and say ‘How’”, she chuckles.
Some traditional Sioux dolls have blank faces. The Navajo tribe and her own Iroquois also make them. Linda borrows a little from them all to create ‘My People’. One of the larger dolls is called Earth Mother. Another is called 3 Sisters, named after the traditional crops of corn, beans, and squash. Another doll she calls the gatherer. Another she named ‘Spirit of Your Dreams’.
Each is taken from actual folklore. Each doll has its own accompanying story or lesson. Linda says, “That’s what these dolls do. They keep the culture. They teach the morals. They teach the history.”
5 years in and Linda feels like she’s only just scratched the surface on the depths of Native American culture. The oil painter in her might once have been tempted to paint a face on these blank faces, but the Indian in her said to leave them blank, and to let the story come through on its own.
For more on Linda Rous ‘My People’ Dolls visit her website at