Ah, Barbie. Love her or hate her, if you were a little girl sometime in the past 60 years, you probably had some sort of relationship (forced or otherwise) with the classic doll. I played with Barbies a lot as a kid- cutting their hair, dressing them up…
hanging them from the ceiling in my own “barbie gallows”…. So, it was only a matter of time before she showed up in my art. I mean, my work is about feminine beauty and it’s construction and commodification, so, who better to embody that than Barbie? Also, I needed a break from painting myself wearing sheet masks.
Here’s the first one that I painted. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it- its interesting how similar yet different it was to painting a human face. The major structure is actually there, just exaggerated in certain areas (EYES!)
I decided to be a tad creepier with this one:
I think this one was “Holiday Barbie,” thus the festive earrings. I photographed and lit real reference photos for this from my actual childhood barbies, so there was a real nostalgia in looking at these dolls that I actually used to play with.
Vincent Desiderio says something along the lines of all paintings are in some way self portraits of the artist. And I feel that that’s true – ultimately, we tend to paint what resonates with us- we can’t escape it. If you played with barbies as a young girl, it’s hard not to both project and draw your own notions and aspirations of femininity and womanhood onto her. In a way, Barbie becomes a self portrait or snapshot of a lot of us at a time when womanhood was so far off that the idea of “playing house” seemed exotic. Anyway, I think I’ll be painting more barbies!
Artists find lots of ways to fill the silence during solitary times in the studio. Music is the classic solution, and a little NPR never hurt anyone. Silence, too, can sometimes be necessary. But lately, I’ve been getting into listening to podcasts while working away in the studio.
Specifically, I’ve been listening to Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast a lot. She interviews a lot of comedians and entertainers, but there is the occasional deviation from that template (she did an excellent one with Dan Savage.) Most people probably know Aisha from either her stand-up or as the voice of Lana on Archer, but her podcast is a real gem, and obviously her personal labor of love. She’s great at conversing with just about anyone, and the conversations are often revealing and personal, without being cloying.
I’ve found that listening to her conversations with comedians, especially, that there are a lot of similarities between the career trajectories of comedians and artists (not that comedy isn’t an art form, but you know what I mean.) I tend to hear about the same uncertainties and anxious insecurities, the same line of crappy jobs, the same struggle to get people to value what you create, from both comedians and artists. In both comedy and fine art, it seems like there’s also that journey from where your work isn’t all that valuable (to the general public, at least) to where you get some sort of weird approval from a notable taste maker in your field (Lorne Micheals, or Charles Saatchi) and then you’ve “made it.” And like in fine arts or the entertainment industry, only a select few actually make Big Money doing what they love.
The Maria Bamford episode is particularly good, although anything involving Maria Bamford is going to be particularly good at the least. There’s a unique intimacy that comes through with this and other episodes- when you just sit back and let someone who is highly accomplished talk relatively uninterrupted for an hour and a half. Letting that intimacy meld with the solitary nature of the artist’s studio makes for an addictive and enlightening mix.