Artist & Project Highlights, Collective Members

Susan R. Kirshenbaum: Barbie on the Cusp

Susan R. Kirshenbaum’s work is about uncovering, revealing, and baring naked truths. It is personal, political, and feminist. From a figurative artist who draws models, to creating a personal narrative using iconic Barbie Dolls, Kirshenbaum has crossed over into new territory for her work. This project reflects a return to storytelling that is reminiscent of her early work with performance and video art in the 1980s. By incorporating aspects of her practice that had long been set aside, she shifted from a 2-dimensional presentation into an immersive experience. She filled a gallery’s walls and floor with objects including: drawings, costumes and props, Barbie dolls of all ages (well-worn, naked, and mostly headless), old photos of her, an artist-made book, printed books, and an open book to “write your own Barbie story here”, plus a video of reading her story aloud. The room was cordoned off with hazard tape. Barbie on the Cusp was created to plumb the depths of the artist’s childhood traumas and how she used Barbie to play out her fears. Barbie is the doll that sets an example to youngsters since the late 1950s and can still be used as a role model or a safe vehicle with which to experiment and role play ideas around our body, our hair, our gender, our sexuality, our family, our career, and in this case, on the verge of adulthood, our secrets. The falseness of the old Barbie bodies connects to the artist’s ongoing pursuit of capturing the essence of a person through drawing. Encountering this installation might leave visitors considering their own stories of youth in relation to Barbie and how these early experiences have played out in their lives today.

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