The Call For Art is from The Brush Gallery in Lowell, one of my favorite local galleries. The exhibit is called “The Little Black Dress.” Here’s anothe glimpse of my piece called The Barbie Project, AKA The Political Black Dress.
I photographed these Barbie dolls a few years ago, when I picked up a whole bag full of them from Freecycle for my granddaughter. Since they’d been in someone’s basement for years, I decided to give the girls a good bath. They looked so hilarious sitting all together on the sink drying that I started to photograph them. Then I washed their clothes as well and dressed them with all their clean duds, so of course, I found myself giving them all new hair dos! This too was hilarious because I was a 65 year old woman who never played with dolls and never had a Barbie. But I knew right then that I would eventually put them to good use in some textile art.
The first thing I did was make a little black dress for our star.
Before a backdrop of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham quotes, these Barbies remind us of the social pressures and norms, even today, that can exert psychological stress and harm as women struggle with our feminine identities in a misogynist culture.
“We are our bodies, and our bodies are not wrong, they are not ugly, they are not dirty, they are not too fat or too hairy or too tall or too masculine. Our consciousness doesn’t hover somewhere a foot above our heads; it’s embedded in every cell. We can’t damage our bodies without damaging ourselves; we can’t love ourselves and other women if we don’t love our own women’s bodies. And we can’t be honest in our feminism if we pretend that making choices to harm our bodies and conform to the dictates of a system that hates us is liberating and empowering.”
“It is not possible to preserve one’s identity by adjusting for any length of time to a frame of reference that is in itself destructive to it. It is very hard indeed for a human being to sustain such an ‘inner’ split – conforming outwardly to one reality, while trying to maintain inwardly the value it denies.”
― Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique