Monday, October 6, 2014

Barbie de la Virgen? Argentinian Artists "Plastic Religion" Exhibit

Artists Emiliano "Pool" Paolini and Marianela Perelli have given Barbie and Ken religious roles for their October 11,  2014 exhibit, "Barbie, The Plastic Religion." You can see some of the dolls here

Some Italian catholic bishops - among others - are angered by the Barbie-religion juxtaposition. Others  consider the pairing natural. Ms. Perelli states that they used Barbies to rebel against conformity. As a life-long collector, I am amazed at the creativity and expression Barbie evokes in spite of her "plasticity" or perhaps, because of it. Think of the additional dolls and action figures ... the playscale market as stemming from one idealized figure.

But what about seeing Barbie and Ken as religious entities? First, I felt uneasy because "Protestants don't do religious iconography," but as I noted the "correct" blue in Mary's gown and other visual cues, I realized, we do. And the toothy grins? Who's to say that God and Mary and Jesus never grinned? Although probably not on a crucifix ....



UPDATE: the "Plastic Religion" has been cancelled. Thanks, Night Owl, for sharing this news. What do you think about that cancellation?

18 comments:

billa's dolls and fashions said...

Hi D7ana, it's a bit weird, but I think the artits have got something there...
lately it seems Barbie has been a source of inspiration for the most diverse things, I'm still craked up by Moschino's latest Barbie inspired fashion collection....and this...it looks like Barbie is all over the place
and I love it!

Smaller Places said...

My first thought is that it's a major oversight to NOT dress Barbie for the Christmas pageant if one celebrates that sort of thing.

I assume part of the artists' point is that Barbie has replaced folk art -- which is a pretty valid POV -- so using Barbie in the same way as folk art representations works.

There are regions where Mattel could totally cash in on a collectors' line of Barbie saints.

D7ana said...

Hi Billa's Dolls and Fashions! We'll be talking "Barbie Spirit" to describe survivors. For someone many say is dead, Barbie still generates conversation. Go Babs!

D7ana said...

Hi Smaller Places! I think some people do use Barbie for Christmas pageants. Re-using plastic for Art, that's current. Better to reuse than to dispose - we can't uncreate that plastic.

I doubt Mattel would ever create saint Barbies; there would be too much controversy. But controversy caused by an outsider - artists - that keeps Barbie fresh in our minds.

Night Owl said...

I love these creations! Very original, and personally I don't find them insulting because made so beautiful and serene - although I would have changed the expression on Jesus' face if I was the artist. Barbie seems to be everywhere this season, and that's great!

Lisa Neault said...

I think using the superstar Barbie packaging is a bit much, but as a converted Catholic myself I don't find it insulting- I find it unique and pretty brave. I can only IMAGINE the fallout if an American artist did this- the politically correct police would be all over it and you'd never hear the end of it.

I myself did a huge Christmas pageant diorama based on my own memories in school of how we did the Nativity pageant and from that book- tHE Best Christmas Pageant ever- the beginning blog posts on my blog is here-
http://www.theonesixthscaledollhouse.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-best-christmas-pageant.html

I agree the expressions were a little doll like, but I find the Barbie Spirit of this interesting , creative and fun. Thank you for posting this!

limbe dolls said...

Thanks for sharing the link to the exhibit. The artists did a really good job. When I was a kid I made nativity scenes with pipe cleaner dolls. I have used some of my 1:6 scale dolls to represent different orishas in the vodun/santeria pantheon. Recently I bought a 1:6 scale Pope John II action figure. My friend and I pulled him out for a playdate and he ended up before a tribunal seeking transformative justice for victims of pedophile priests. Doll play is serious business. Why wouldn't spirituality be part of the doll world?

The grandmommy said...

I don't see any difference between using Barbies for religious purposes than anything else.

I am careful about the idea of using one nationality/culture/race over another for religious icons.

Vanessa said...

Thanks so much for sharing. Those were wonderful to see. Anything that can generate a conversation about the Creator is all right in my book.

D7ana said...

Hi Night Owl, Lisa Neault, Limbe Dolls, and The grandmommy!

Thanks for your comments: I am glad that no one was offended by the post. (No one has said so anyway ;-P)

@Night Owl - I agree the dolls are beautifully crafted. The gowns look appropriate. And although I thought the grinning Ken-as-Jesus had an inappropriate expression, maybe the artists meant that people today are so disconnected from life or reality, that they cannot assume "normal" or expected expressions of pain, agony, etc? I look at that photo and try to understand why. Ka-ching! that's several points in favor of the artsts.

@Lisa Neault - the superstar Barbie and the related packaging might have been used to provoke: that face screening seems one of the more vacuous expressions.

And I agree that such dolls could NOT be reproduced by a U.S. artist or Mattel without a mighty social storm. Btw, your pageant looks lovely. Thanks for sharing it ;-)

@Limbe Dolls - my pleasure, sharing the link. I thought it was timely and interesting. I've never created any Nativity scenes myself, but I look at them around Christmas.

Oh, I would LOVE to see your Pope John II action figure. Can I look forward to seeing him in future posts? I'm glad to see you return to dolly blogging: you make me rethink the possibilities of many dolls.

Hmmm ... that's a valid and intriguing idea - allowing/embracing spirituality in doll play.

@The grandmommy - good point. i am re-thinking my previous separation stance.

Good point about diversity among the dolls. I noticed one Christie; there might have been more and/or other ethnic dolls in the entire exhibition.

D7ana said...

Hi Vanessa! You are welcome; my pleasure to share. That is a great point: these dolls stimulate conversation about God and what we believe in.

lindaivette montes de oca said...

Hola, me agrada ver tanta novedad en tu blog. Gracias por compartirnoslas. Saludos.

D7ana said...

Me alegro de que te haya gustado este post, Lindaivette montes de oca! Saludos.

jSarie said...

Thanks for sharing these - the artists creating some very eye-catching pieces.

And tasteful as well - aside from the grins, they all look very much like the actual paintings and statues that they were inspired by. And the fact that the artists were chose to limit themselves to religions with a tradition of iconography strikes me as quite respectful of them.

D7ana said...

Hi jSarie! You're welcome. Glad to share them. I agree that the figures were well-done and mostly tasteful ;-)

Muff said...

I am agnostic so the religious aspects of this don't weigh on me. However, I am someone who is easily offended... by most things actually, but that's just my nature. I don't like it when people poo poo on other people's beliefs. I don't think that is what the artist is doing though. The cheesy grins on the dolls may make it seem like a mockery, but that's just what their faces look like. Someone not a Barbie person probably doesn't know that and sees this differently. So, I could see people feeling offense and getting a sacrilegious vibe.

Night Owl said...

Hi D7ana, apparently the exhibition is canceled, here's a link:

http://hosted2.ap.org/FLJAJ/eee902782ea04602823f92b22b67c045/Article_2014-10-11-LT--Argentina-Holy%20Barbies/id-6bbee31c5dd84b85ab08b1718a32d25a

I thought it might interest you.

D7ana said...

Hi Muff and Night Owl! Thanks for your comments.

@Muff - Usually, I have a sense of humor and some patience. More than turning the cheek, I'll pull back. Nah nah.

I don't see any benefit in mocking others' beliefs. I think the artists were challenging religious decorum by using cheerful, ubiquitous Barbie as their medium rather than traditional, neutral materials like stone or canvas.

But yes, I can also see how a more traditional-minded, non-doll/action figure person might feel disrespected.

@Night Owl - oh, no! That cancellation is a pity.