Barbie, toy industry icon and feminist nightmare, celebrated her 55th birthday this year. She has gone through many incarnations–babysitter, student teacher, astronaut, faerie queen, roller-blading aficionado.
Here are some Barbies you probably won’t see on store shelves: zombie Snow White Barbie, alien-toting Barbie, cat-in-crotch Barbie, nude dragon-riding Barbie. All of these Barbies could be found at the annual Altered Barbie exhibit in San Francisco, where the tiny sub-genre of Barbie art reigns.
There are two types of art at Altered Barbie. There are the pieces that use Barbie and all the feelings we project onto her as a means of telling a story about, say, gays in the military, religion, or sex. And then there are those that that just use Barbie as a raw material. In general, the storytelling pieces tend to be more fun, and in some cases, more horrifying (see: dead Barbie who has just been killed by terrorists). Much of the artwork is not really appropriate for kids, though I did see plenty of them at the Altered Barbie closing night party .
If there’s one thing to take away from Altered Barbie, it’s this: Barbie may be getting on in years, but she still has a firm grip on the American psyche. Check out the Altered Barbie pieces that are currently for sale here.