In celebration of Barbie’s 55th birthday, we've collected a round up of subversive art inspired by her hollow head and plastic husk of a body. It's only fair that this art be viewed on her 55th birthday, because if there's one thing that Barbie has taught us, it's that you can do anything -- as long as you look flawless, ageless, and excessively cheery while doing it! It’s fitting that we see some disturbing images of Barbie today, as her youthful glow and gym-tight body have surely faded in the last 50 years.

“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices,” says creator Ruth Handler. Well, that is a totally honorable perspective! But let's be real - Barbie doesn't really provide options for little girls, as they are pressured to look and act like her, and are celebrated for playing house and "lets go to the mall" with dolls, instead of building, exploring, or creating.  



Thanks to Peihang Huang’s corpse-y oil painting of Barbie, we get to see the inevitable progression of Barbie’s life…and death. The series titled, Floral Funeral boasts rich, beautiful, floral colors contrasted with the plastic smile and cold, lifeless eyes of Barbie’s corpse. Thanks Mattel for allowing us to make Barbie anything we want her to be, even when it’s a zombie with rotting flesh! 

Some artists have chosen to warp the real world into a bubblegum pink soap opera gone awry. Conceptual photographer, Dina Goldstein, uses Barbie and her famous "dream house" to illuminate an alternative storyline in Barbie’s picturesque partnership with Ken. The series In the Dollhouse causes viewers to question Ken's perfectly coifed hair/impeccable style and brings human elements of unhappiness, facade, and betrayal, to their plastic relationship. 

Student duo Breno Cosa and Guillherme Souza use their photos of Barbie to sharply respond to the ridiculousness of Sports Illustrated. The project accentuates the true oddness of "erotic" postures by using Barbie's plastic body in an array of uncomfortable and cliché poses. The photos mock the expectation for real women to bend and sit like plastic dolls.

 Sheila Pree Bright merges real photographs with doll portraits to contrast “Eurocentric beauty culture using the fragmented bodies of ethnic women and dolls”. Her series is disturbing, as we try to make sense of warped faces and see where the doll ends and the human begins. It draws attention to the global assimilation of cultures and ethnicities, and emphasizes Barbie's harmful exclusion, showing that simply giving Barbie dark skin does not make the her inclusive to other races and ethnicities. 

Mariel Clayton transports Barbie and Ken outside of the dream home and sets the stage for violence and hatred. This new side of Barbie allows us insight into what 50 years of pink, plush and and cutesy stuff will do to your mind…


Eweline Koszykowski bridges the distance between Barbie’s fantasy world and a place of dark nightmares, with oil paintings and linen. Distorting the Barbies into vicious little cherubs. The dolls look like they are from some realm of hell, piled in copious sums at the foot of your bed. Don't look now! Your childhood pressure to be thin and pretty is piled at your feet!

Sarah Haney brings Barbie back to reality with realistic black and white photo stills from Barbie's every day life. Haney’s work is categorized in three simple stages: Welcome to the Dream House, Life in Plastic, and Things Fall Apart. These series illustrate the possible dark underbelly of the life and times of Barbie.

Beatrice Morabito chooses to project a new identity onto Barbie through exploration of Barbie's sexuality and fetishes. Come on, who hasn’t conjured up crazy sex scenes for Barbie and mashed some doll faces together in plastic intimacy?


The great thing about Barbie is that she can really can be used to do anything. We just have to make sure that she isn’t also setting expectations for kids in the world to be stick-thin and pretty/perfect every hour of every day (we can dream). These artists use Barbie to explore identity of all kinds, and hopefully parents will have enough sense in their non-plastic skulls to allow their kiddos to express their identities too!



Images courtesy of the Artists individual websites. Click links above for more! 


The great thing about Barbie is that she can really can be used to do anything. We just have to make sure that she isn’t also setting expectations for kids in the world to be stick-thin and pretty/perfect every hour of every day (we can dream). These artists use Barbie to explore identity of all kinds, and hopefully parents will have enough sense in their non-plastic skulls to allow their kiddos to express their identities too!



Images courtesy of the Artists individual websites. Click links above for more! 

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Tagged in: ken, birthday, bdsm, barbie, art   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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