Courtesy of Gender Focus, I learned about this project involving Barbie (yes, the doll) put into famous, iconic art, like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, the famous photo of Coco Chanel, the Venus de Milo, and Mona Lisa*.
As an art enthusiast and a girl who played with Barbies as a child, the project pleased me. When playing with the dolls as a child, I usually used them as the “stars” in plays I wrote, or recreated my favourite movies, or they became the models for outfits made out of tissues, old scraps of fabric, and paper I created. It was more fun than using the outfits that came with the dolls, and my inner child fashion designer appreciates taking that to the next level.
The adult art critic in me, however, is slightly more interested in the contrast between the bodies of the original women in the art, and the Barbie. It’s most stark in the recreation of the famous Man Ray photo, Venus de Milo, and the Helmut Newton photo. The original art had women of more generous proportions than Barbie. I have a feeling that was part of the artist’s intent with that series, because it is undeniably stark and noticeable. I believe it says less about Barbie and a lot more about larger culture’s attitude towards women’s bodies and how they change. Barbie’s a symptom, not a cause of that transition, and the series does a nice job shedding light on that particular aspect of her identity as The doll of North American childhood.
Look at the rest and enjoy, even if you’ve never played with Barbies, it’s fun to see the doll be used this way.