Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future

August 14, 2019 3 min read

Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future

Do you remember your first Barbie doll? Mine was a gift from my father on the occasion of my first trip to Florida. She was an Island Fun Barbie with brown hair, dark skin, a halter neck bathing suit, sarong and pink chiffon lei. I loved her! I played with Barbies a lot as a child. I do not think there are any body image issues here, but when my father gave my daughter a barbie for Christmas when she was three, I had some reservations. Were Barbie's unattainable body proportions going to make her think that is the way women are really shaped? Will she know that humans do not naturally come with tan, smooth, hairless skin? The jury will be out for some time, as she is only 5, but what I do know is that she loves her Barbie and Barbie is a vehicle for her imagination. She is constantly thinking up things to make for her Barbie: a bed, pillows, a bookcase for all the books she made. I love that Barbie has inspired the maker/crafter in Lula.

Barbie Dream House{Sofa by Studio BOCA, chandelier by Stray Dog Designs, wallpaper by Flat Vernacular}

A couple months ago Studio BOCA approached Stray Dog Designs about participating in the installation they were working on at the Birmingham Museum entitled  Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future. We saw the drawings and looked up the other artists and designers participating, but could not imagine what the space would look like. On Friday, Jane, Stella and I drove down to Birmingham for the opening night! We were greeted with the most beautiful and inspiring space! 

Flat Vernacular "If the Shoe Fits"

Walking up to the gallery, you immediately encounter a huge piece of art by Peyton Turner of Flat Vernacular named “If the Shoe Fits.” It is a 12 foot high rectangular piece covered in thousands of Barbie shoes. The shoes are arranged in mandala like patterns, inspired by the Mariner’s Compass quilt design.

Barbie Bookshelf and desk{Shelf by Stray Dog Designs with a feminist library, flag by Natalie Baxter}

Once you walk into the room itself you are met with a visual riot of patterns, textures and multiple shades of pink. The walls are covered in wallpapers by Flat Vernacular and Calico. There is a dining room tableau by our dear friend Addie Chapin and one of Natalie Baxter’s gold bloated flags hangs above our white and gold desk. You can sit at a dressing table and ponder your relationship with Barbie as you gaze at your reflection in a mirror by Kim Markel. There is also some thought provoking photography by Shelia Pree Bright who juxtaposes real women's features with those of Barbie dolls. 

Addie Chapin
{Addie Chapin in her installation with a photograph by  David Levinthal}

Barbie at Barbie

{A life sized Barbie at a table by Kim Martel, sconces by Stray Dog Designs}

If you are in Birmingham or in driving distance, please go to this exhibit! The whole museum is top notch, but the Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future is beyond. I want to take Lula down and show her all the possibilities out there! She can design bedazzled and glow in the dark wallpaper like Peyton Turner. She could make glowing tables and chairs out of recycled materials like Kim Markel. She can even design colorful and kooky light fixtures like her godmother Jane! Barbie is an amazing woman! She is an astronaut, paleontologist, veterinarian and a designer. If Barbie is who my daughter looks up to, she may actually be a pretty good role model.

Lula's Barbie Bedroom
{One of Lula's creations, a bedroom for Barbie}