A whole new kind of Barbie world at the Kitao Gallery

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Friday, February 10, the Kitao Gallery opened its latest installation, “Barbie for President,” by Laila Muller ’06 and Lisa Nelson ’06, an amusing exhibition of the various methods of manipulating and contorting Barbie dolls in the name of art. The exhibit will be open Monday through Thursday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Artists everywhere have chosen the human form as their subject but Muller and Nelson have chosen the Barbie form, the familiar, pliable, plastic princess who has been the subject of both idolization and controversy. Her duel image is highlighted by select articles on Barbie available to visitors to the gallery, which range from referring to the luxuriously “uambitious” Barbie lifestyle to describing Barbie as among the world’s most successful “harlots.”

Love her or hate her, the bright eyed blonde and an assortment of her friends and alter egos have been burnt, shorn, dismembered, and displayed throughout the gallery, but the centerpiece is a film documenting some of these processes and revealing some of the more unusual ways in which one can play with a Barbie doll. Among the most oddly endearing moments being the release of two gerbils amidst a field of Barbie bits.

Ultimately, the exhibit is a whimsical and surrealistic escape into the creative possibilities of a Barbie doll. Funny and a little bizarre, the installment is an entertaining addition to the Kitao and bound to challenge anyone’s previously held conceptions of a Barbie girl.

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