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Home is where the art is: Sam Guzman’s muñecas sin rostro in her Oak Cliff living room

Sam Guzman holds one of her muñecas sin rostro in her Oak Cliff living room.
Sam Guzman
Sam Guzman holds one of her muñecas sin rostro in her Oak Cliff living room.

Editor's note: Sam Guzman is the editor for Arts Access, a collaboration between KERA and The Dallas Morning News.

Occupation: Editor
Age: 32
Neighborhood: Oak Cliff
Pronouns: she/her

Art habits

Last song listened to: SZA’s “Low”
Performance you’re looking forward to: Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour stop in Arlington
Favorite artist: Beyoncé
Hobbies: Dancing to merengue, bachata or club hits

Muñecas sin rostro are dolls without a face. They represent the mix of Latinx, Indigenous and African blood that make up the Dominican identity.
Sam Guzman
Muñecas sin rostro are dolls without a face. They represent the mix of Latinx, Indigenous and African blood that make up the Dominican identity.

Can you explain what this piece of art is? 

I have these dolls that I collect. They're called muñecas sin rostro, or dolls without a face. They're these dolls that are made in the Dominican Republic. They can be made in all sorts of different ways and they can have different types of dress, but they're hand-painted and they're handcrafted.

Where did you get this piece of art from? 

The bride I got while I was on my honeymoon, which was in Punta Cana, I'm pretty sure. And then the little one who has the traditional colors of the Dominican flag, I think I got in Puerto Plata. I'm not sure, but they're from the Dominican Republic.

My parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic. I used to travel back there quite a bit as a child, but I had not traveled back to the Dominican Republic in a long time. I went back as an adult on a trip with my family and husband for the first time a few years ago. They sort of took us on a tour of the country to see where my grandparents had homes and where they grew up.

When I was going through the markets, I found all of these dolls and I was like, “Oh, these are so unusual. They don't have a face.” I asked one of the vendors about it, and they shared that story with me, how they're made without a face because they represent the mixture of Latinx, Indigenous and African blood that makes up the Dominican identity. That to me was so cool. So since that first moment, every time I go back, I always try to grab one. 

Where is the art in your home and why did you place it there? 

Currently, they are located in my living room. They’re right at the top of the bookshelf, and they are displayed really prominently.

They're there because I think that my bookshelves in my home represent something that I really love, which is reading. Then to have them there on display next to some of my favorite books, which are also written by Dominican authors, it's just like a happy little corner that I love to look at all the time and feel good. 

Sam Guzman.
Sam Guzman
Sam Guzman's muñecas sin rostro sit on her bookshelf, next to other beloved books and memorabilia.

Why is this piece of art meaningful to you? 

When I first discovered these dolls, it was at a moment in my life that I was sort of navigating and accepting all of these different parts of my identity.

Growing up, I always felt sort of out of place and being pulled in between multiple worlds. Folks always wanted me to sort of choose whatever identity I have and wanted me to fit in a box. For a long time, I really was like, “Oh, I really have to fit in this box or I have to fit in that box.”

Also being the child of immigrants, right? I was always known as the gringita of my family, right? Like I was too white for my family, but like not white for America, not Latino enough, not Black enough. Like all of these things sort of culminating into my identity.

So when I found this doll in a market that basically highlighted that mixture and highlighted the fact that, “Oh, no, there isn't one way to be Dominican.” It just felt like, “Oh, ha! Here's something that sort of sums up my experience in a way that feels really good to me.” So it was really meaningful.

I'm not a big collector of art. I would be sort of embarrassed to even call these art, maybe, in the sense of what traditionally people say. But to me, it felt really meaningful and something important that I knew that I wanted to grab and keep collecting.

What does this art say about you? 

I think this art says that I love my heritage. I love where I come from. I think this art also says, you know, it's colorful – these dolls. I think it also says that I'm fun. I don't take myself too seriously.

Maybe it says something larger that labels maybe need to be a little bit more chill. I think the fact that I love these and what they represent says something larger about the things that are meaningful to me in terms of cultural identity and being accepted.

What’s one word to describe how this artwork makes you feel? 


This story is part of a series called "Home is where the art is" that shares the stories behind the art North Texans have at home. Got an interesting piece of art in your home? Fill out this form and a reporter may reach out to you for a future story.

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.

Elizabeth Myong is KERA’s Arts Collaborative Reporter. She came to KERA from New York, where she worked as a CNBC fellow covering breaking news and politics. Before that, she freelanced as a features reporter for the Houston Chronicle and a modern arts reporter for Houstonia Magazine.