For a plastic doll, Barbie can be polarizing. Emiliano Paolini and Marianela Perelli discovered this recently when their exhibit “Barbie: The Plastic Religion” at POPA gallery in Buenos Aires was cancelled. “Given repeated anonymous threats concerning the event, the artists decided not to exhibit his work, fearing for the physical safety of visitors,” a notice on the gallery’s website announced.
The 33 pieces in the controversial collection are each one-of-a-kind, and they include Barbie dolls as the Virgin Mary; Joan of Arc; Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction; and the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico. Ken becomes Christ on the cross, Buddha, Moses, St. Sebastian and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The sculptures represent figures from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Argentine folk religion. The Muslim prophet Muhammad is not included in the series—the artists told Reuters that since Islam prohibits the creation of his image they omitted him out of respect.
Questions of taste and faith have been raised by Argentine Catholic Priests, Italian Bishops, and Hindu Clerics, much to the surprise of the artists. “We have a sanctuary in the kitchen that has more saints than the Vatican,” Paolini told the Associated Press. Some have accused the artists of grandstanding—disrespecting religion in order to gain notoriety. They disagree.
“The true message of our work was mutilated by magazines and television. That’s a shame. The media is killing our art.” (Source)
The sculpted dolls are additional portrayals in the canon of religious iconography, weighted down with the 55-year legacy of a plastic girl and her boyfriend.
I’m sure you recognize the reference here. In case you were in doubt, the Belgian artist Jan Fabre is reinterpreting the most iconic work of the renaissance, Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Michelangelo’s famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.
Fabre’s interpretation gets personal, a little macabre, and a bit controversial…
In his rendition, Fabre places himself as Jesus with a butterfly perched on the side of his mouth. The heavy, dead-looking body wears a crisp, classy but torn suite. A closer look reveals a scarab at the edge of his cuff that is slowly drifting off towards the artist’s lifeless hand, which is tenuously holding on to a human brain.
The Virgin Mary’s face is replaced by a skull, which many would say is a reference to the Vanitas, the universal symbol of death.
The work was shown in Venice in 2011. This was in close relation to, but not a part of the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale. Given the place and the country (a very religious one) in which it was shown, you can image the controversy it created. The artist commented on the matter:
“is not to convey a blasphemous or even merely or provocative message. This work represents a “performance sculpture” that illustrates a mother’s real feelings when she yearns to take the place of her dead son.”
It’s extremely hard to pull off the old tie dye painting move but Saira Mclaren has managed to do it with these interesting experimental abstractions. If you squint real hard you’ll start seeing figures, buildings, landscapes, and maybe in jesus.