CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and First Lady Cathy Justice will unveil the newest commemorative doll in the First Ladies of West Virginia Collection in a ceremony at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, on Wednesday, June 27, at 2 p.m. The Cathy Justice doll was hand-sculpted by Washington D.C.-based artist Ping Lau, and features the first lady in her Inaugural Ball gown. The event is free and open to the public.
The West Virginia Federation of Women’s Clubs initially commissioned the first ladies doll collection in 1976, the same year the Culture Center opened. Edna Henderson, a Charleston-based ceramic artist, created 29 first lady dolls, from Laurane Boreman to Sharon Rockefeller, before she died in 1999. This permanent exhibit was installed in the Culture Center balcony, where it remains.
In 2006, elementary art teacher and doll maker Joanne Gelin created the Gayle Manchin doll with hopes to bring the exhibit up to date, but after completing the Manchin doll, she declined to finish the project.
Since 2013, Lau has designed the dolls of former first ladies Dee Caperton, Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, Sandy Wise and Rachael Worby. She works meticulously with drawings and photographs and pays close attention to detail as she completes the dolls and gowns.
Lau was raised and educated in Singapore. She has no formal art training, but graduated with a bachelor of arts in English Literature from the National University of Singapore. Her meticulously detailed, expressive and one-of-a-kind dolls receive tremendous response and recognition whenever they are shown. Many of them have been mistaken for real children. Lau’s dolls, paintings and other creations have been displayed at local and national art galleries and art shows, and have been featured on the Home Shopping Network.
After the ceremony, the First Lady Cathy Justice doll will be added to the permanent exhibit on the south side of the balcony gallery on the second floor of the Culture Center.
For more information about the first lady doll collection, contact Charles Morris, director of museums, at (304) 558-0220 or Charles.W.Morris@wv.gov.