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Close Look: “Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future” in Birmingham

Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art. All photos courtesy of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Barbie has always been lauded, derided, admired and disregarded in discussions about femininity, femaleness, the feminine. Her measurements, accents, and hairstyles loom large in the collective feminine imagination. Attainable or not, her affluence and easy path through whatever career and situation she found herself in is an alluring fantasy.

But it’s 2019—Ken Carson, Barbie’s forever boyfriend, was left in the dust in the early 2000s. She was rumored to be involved to be involved with Blaine, an Australian surfer, but that hasn’t really worked out. What has Barbie been doing in the meantime? Living a rich interior life, collecting art, reading Audre Lorde, and reevaluating what it means to be Barbie. As women and girls reevaluate what being feminine in this new era means, Barbie will be there with us, asking the same questions, looking for the same answers.

Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art, featuring work by Natalie Baxter.
Installation view of Barbie: Dreaming of A Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art, featuring works by Sheila Pree Bright.

Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future closes at the Birmingham Museum of Art on January 26.

Participating artists, designers, and women-owned businesses include: Aelfie, Addie Chapin, Calico Wallpaper, David Levinthal, Eskayel, Estudio Persona, Flat Vernacular, Greta de Parry, Grace Hartigan, Lauren Kelley, Kim Markel, Natalie Baxter, Quiet Town, Range Projects, Ruby Star Society, Sazerac Stitches, Sheila Pree Bright, Stray Dog Designs, Studio BOCA, and Tamar Mogendorff.

Editor Logan Lockner spoke with the exhibition’s curator, Hallie Ringle, late last year. Read their conversation here.

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