Friday, July 16, 2010

Rock River Artists Open Studio -The Barbie Center

I can’t explain the fascination, if fascination is the right word, with Barbie. I cannot help but poke fun at the concept and why this would be the example to present to children escapes me. It must be the “oh so perfect” rich girl image that I imagine. Good for me, because sarcasm is right up my alley. And at the end of that alley, tucked neatly away in the corner behind the trash can is my imagination. I strongly disagree with those who imply that imagination is bizarre. My imagination leads me down a serpentine path to be sure … but one based on pure logic. At least, that is how I imagine it.

Nevertheless, the net result is a special section of my open studio devoted to Barbie creations. I set it up like a shadowbox. You know how Barbie loves pink. The black background should be perfect for her pink accessories.
Finding enough Barbie’s to do the pieces justice was a difficult task and required a great deal of thought and flea market bargaining . In the end, I acquired a box of Barbie’s for a reasonable price. By that, I mean cheap. I started with a piece I call “the Barbie Bouquet”. The first version contrasted the deep greens of the evergreen boughs with the golden Barbie locks. For the open studio, I redid the piece using bare branches in order to make Barbie the centerpiece of the work … and the perfect centerpiece for any table.

Several weeks ago, my boss gave me a pink box with a see-through plastic window that she thought I might be able to use. I thought immediately of Barbie. The shape and window on the box reminded me of old footage of a Houdini trick in which he was place in a box with limited air, chained shut, and lowered into a river to drown, give out of air, or escape. Hence, Houdini Barbie. With a few minor adjustment to her legs (chop, chop) she fit the box perfectly. I tied her hands. Given the oxygen situation, I decided a blue face was most appropriate. The box was wired shut and locked. Houdini Barbie.

I had another box in the barn. I thought about for a Barbie project months ago. It was in the shape of a coffin and had been used at school to pass around a stuffed squirrel to scare new teachers. The squirrel deteriorated and I got the coffin. I envisioned Barbie peacefully in state in the coffin and I thought … Dracula Barbie. Dracula always rests in his natural earth from Transylvania. Natural soil for Barbie would have to be pink … an easy fix. A quick trip to JoAnn's Fabrics in Keene and I had black, glossy material for the cape. Paint the top of the coffin pink … add some fangs … and Dracula Barbie was ready for the show.

I confess the next two pieces were not my idea. I saw them in a store window in Quebec City. One was canned Barbie parts … like heads, or arms, or legs. I made my version using antique canning jars with the wire tops. I added dried hot peppers to each jar (because Barbie is so hot and spicy) and called my creation Pickled Barbie. The second piece I saw involved Barbie and an old meat grinder. Input Barbie heads to the grinder and outcome fur. I assumed the fur was fox since Barbie is so foxy. In my version, the output was golden thread. I called the piece “Meatgrinder Barbie.

Don’t blame me for the next two pieces. Blame Charlton Heston. You may or may not know that Charlton Heston has invaded my dreams and is intentionally trying to make my life miserable with his clinched-teeth maniacal grin. I thought I had seen the last of him until the other night … 3:00 AM to be exact. He slipped unseen through the backdoor of my dream world and secretly eased a thought into my head. I had been thinking about what one does with leftover Barbie parts. Pull off a head and then what. I want to give credit where credit is due … even to my nemesis CH. In the movie that CH did about a futuristic, over-populated world struggling to feed the hoards, two wafer-like soy cakes were developed and feed to the people. The protein cake was called soylent green. The snoopy policeman in the movie (CH) discovered the secret … soylent green was made from reprocessed body parts and fed to the people. The perfect solution was those leftover body parts … Soylent Green Barbie.
The last piece in the series is also a result of the extra parts I had on hand. Again, what so you use them for. I thought about how we use our DNA to clone man-make versions of ourselves. Well, sheep for now mostly. I created a new cloned version of Barbie. Done on a pure white background (hospital sanitary conditions for this procedure), I created the Cloned Barbie from those leftovers.

For now, I am done with Barbie creations … but you never know … I still have to sleep at night.