This story originally appeared in Dirge Magazine on Jan. 26, 2017.
Barbie body harvesters are turning your favorite childhood toys into unnerving and unforgettable works of art. Dolls placed into scenes of sin and sexuality create disarming juxtapositions. Detached, neatly contoured limbs and severed, big-eyed heads make an uncanny valley torture chamber. Scroll down and feast your eyes on the depravity of Mattel-perfect bodies dragged into a seedy underworld.
Bohyun Yoon – Structure of Shadow
Much of Bohyun Yoon’s work plays with reflections, shadows, and the human body. Yoon says “Structure of Shadow” is a reaction to the servitude and subservience he witnessed while serving in the Korean military. “Hanging like puppets, the figures portray the idea of a group as opposed to an individual. A simple light and shadow trick is key in this work and becomes a metaphor for invisible power or tricks of politics in our society.”
Kim Holleman – Toynado
While a resident artist at Elsewhere, a former thrift shop converted into an artist collaborative, Kim Holleman learned of an attic room affectionately called the baby-war. The room was filled with discarded dolls and toys. Holleman built Toynado inside the baby-war room and it is now a permanent installation at Elsewhere.
Jon Beinart – Toddlerpede Sculptures
The twisted sculptures of Jon Beinart look as though Dr. Moreau visited an abandoned doll factory. These anatomically confounding sculptures twist adorable baby faces and chubby limbs into expertly constructed abominations of nature.
Jocelyne Grivaud – Barbie My Muse Project
French artist Jocelyne Grivaud inserted Barbie into some of the most iconic images in popular culture and modern art. “Barbie is often criticized for being too blonde, too superficial, too skinny, too “ideal marketing”, too “this” and too “that”…. My aim was to adjust this so-famous profile to different emblematic representations,” says Grivaud. Sometimes, the results are comical. Other times, her work looks like dark commentary.
Freya Jobbins – Agapi Trigono
Freya Jobbins’ sculptures use doll parts to produce human muscle structures and features. She takes inspiration from Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a 16th Century Italian painter famous for portraits made from images of fruits and vegetables. While these eerie sculptures reimagine human form in an unnerving way, some of Jobbins’s other work is playful, like her doll part Bart Simpson, Batman, and Darth Vader busts.
Lavonne Sallee – Electrified Barbie
Lavonne Sallee was born in Roswell, New Mexico one year before the supposed alien spaceship crash. This proximity to oddity is one way to explain how she moved from a corporate job to become the owner and operator of The Barbie Lady Art Gallery. Sallee’s web page organizes her artistic creations into groups such as “gay,” “kink,” “bloody,” “weird” and other offbeat categorizations that Dirge readers will surely appreciate.
Deborah Colotti – Circle of Legs
From mobiles made of animal bone and doll parts, to mirrors trimmed with Barbie legs, to this creepy tree trunk, Deborah Colotti uses doll parts in different ways, all of them both beautiful and terrifying. Collotti is also the creator of BreastStop, a giant sculpture of breasts made by draping two parachutes over PVC domes with bases of two 12-foot diameter trampolines. She took BreastStop to Burning Man in 2012 where “Lots of things happened on the trampoline mats inside….”
With toy shop palettes, these artists have reimagined childhood memories to create haunting and beautiful works of art. Before you throw out the dolls gathering dust in your basement, think first about what might be possible with some imagination, hard work, and a little dismemberment.