SO BARBIE/ARTIST STATEMENT:
To highlight the ludicrous, I have put Barbie in environments that are at odds with her image as an ideal of feminine beauty and her perpetually smiling face. Barbie has for decades epitomized female beauty as a young, slim and curvaceous Caucasian with a mass of flowing hair, lots of make-up, perky breasts, feet that are permanently formed to wear stiletto heels, and an incredibly small waist. She has no wrinkles, and she’s always smiling. There’s nothing wrong with being young, beautiful and smiling, but how terrible it is to think that if only we looked like Barbie, we, too, would be successful and happy, always ready for the next fun dinner party or date with Ken. Mattel has in recent years included Barbies who are black and brown, small and large, in diverse colors and sizes, which is commendable. Barbies now have careers as engineers, computer programmers and astronauts. These are excellent changes. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is Barbie’s smile. A sad or angry Barbie probably wouldn’t be a wise marketing choice, but in “Barbie in Despair” I wanted to imagine that Barbie has problems just like the rest of us. She experiences hurt, pain, sadness, anger, jealousy and all those negative emotions, just like we do. Make-believe stories and play are not just about true happiness forever; fairy tales can be stories of evil, adversity and fear. Is there not some beauty in aging? Barbie is an older woman in “Barbie as Wall Street Executive.” An executive’s wrinkles and gray hair are tribute to years spent climbing the corporate ladder, gaining the experience to successfully lead and inspire entire organizations. An executive wields power, of which Barbie has little. Her only power is her attractiveness. Whether or not the Venus of Willendorf is a fertility goddess, her form is eternally female: a body that is ample, hips that are wide for child-bearing, breasts heavy with milk. Her only role is to perpetuate the race, and consequently she is faceless. She is not an individual. Barbie, in contrast, has no reference to what has been women’s predominant role for hundreds if not thousands of years, as a care-giver and child-bearer. In “Barbie Goes to Battle,” Barbie is clearly not equipped for war, and we can’t believe she could kill despite her combat uniform and boots. She smiles blandly as she holds an M-16 assault rifle. On the other hand, Barbie is, in fact, a part of the battle in this painting. If Barbie can do it, other women can, too. “Garden of Eden” is based on Albrecht Durer’s beautiful engraving of Adam and Eve done in 1504. I stole the composition and wanted to capture some of the tenderness between the two. However, my feeling is that Genesis 2, in which Eve causes the downfall of mankind and thus causes women to be ruled by men forever, is as fake as the plastic of Barbie and Ken. It’s just funny to see Barbie as Venus de Milo. Barbie’s face looks cartoonish and her figure looks stilted and contrived, when compared to the Venus at the Louvre. The bevy of admiring young Barbies surrounding her is, sadly, duplicated today in our desire to reach that impossible state of perfect beauty.