Barbie is an ideal specimen of American pop culture. Shes ubiquitous, shes artificial, shes obsessed with image, and she and her plastic-haired boyfriend, Ken, hold the Rest of Us up to unattainable and single-minded standards of beauty. (Just look at those permanently affixed smiles! Mocking us, they are!) She has been maligned and boycotted and fiercely defended by her creator, Mattel. Considering what shes been through, she doesnt look bad for a 51-year-old. All these heavy issues provide artists a great excuse to lighten up at Altered Barbie, an exhibit and series of events that celebrate the small doll by using her as a medium as well as a subject. Tonight, for example, you can ask the artists themselves how and why they alter Barbie. Tomorrow is the opening reception, where youre invited to come dressed as Barbie or Ken. (Just wait until you see what some people do to re-create those big wide eyes they look like anime characters come to life.) Theres also a poetry night, a stand-up comedy event, an artist workshop, and a fundraiser. Some works from last year include mummified Barbie, paramilitary Barbie, mermaid Barbie complete with breast-reduction surgery and skeletal Barbie. Go see for yourself what has become of our artificial heroine this year.
Sept. 9-30, 2010