31 March 2007

Barbie Dolls and Barbie Art

Ever since they finished their first Barbie Art project, the girls have been begging to do another one, so yesterday we started. Already their work is becoming repetitive and cliched, the new Barbie Art looks very much like the old Barbie Art: there are the layers of paint, the faces smeared in dark blues and greens, the painted on boots and elbow-length gloves. But still, each piece emerges unique and the proud artists drag visitors through the house to show them, see? see my Barbie Art?

Although I have to say, these new Barbies are really strange. The bodies of the old Barbies were always so obviously, completely fake with their rotating waists and strange triangular torsos, but these new ones have had those weird hips and waists sort of smoothed out, they have this little belly and curves. (No nipples yet, but I think that's so they won't look pornographic while wearing their clothes - little hard plastic nipples would be difficult to hide. They'd look normal enough while the dolls were naked, but put on any one of their tight little outfits - Barbie is not a fan of baggy clothes - and we're talking way beyond wet t-shirt material.)

I know that Barbie dolls have gotten a bad rap in terms of influence over body image and promoting a totally unrealistic standard for women, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I quip, well, I had them, and I turned out just fine. But the new bodies really do sort of make me question thier potential influence. These are not the same dolls that I played with, the bodies have developed a surreal-realism that is more than a little creepy. I'm not saying that people really look like this, just that it seems more theoretically possible than before. And besides, their hips do this weird gyrating thing now.

Matilda wanted to use fabric this time, so the finished project will be clothed. The first project happened because two Barbies (fresh from the Goodwill toy bin) had lost their heads and we just had to do something with them. But now it seems to have become an ongoing theme for their art projects. Soon we will have all of our walls covered in painted Barbie dolls with capes and veils and glitter.

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