Photo By Cameron Wittig
Is Barbie a superhero? Whether you think her admirable or, well, fraught, she’s an unmovable fixture in our collective imagination, and the complicated inspiration of Minneapolis-based photographer Nicole Houff’s snarky still lifes.
"I think that it's a positive image of a female," says Houff of her finished pieces. "Barbie's always the strongest element. She's going to be the predominant ass-kicker." In the same token, Houff is well aware of Barbie's contentious position, and relishes it. Every year you'll find her at the Uptown Art Fair engaging with lovers and haters alike. "Artwork should be an exchange of ideas," she says.
Which makes her work a perfect addition to WonderWomen, January's exhibit of female-created works inspired by popular culture. Next to modern comic strips and surreal family portraits you'll find Houff's scene of a blasé Pan Am stewardess complete with the mischievous side-eyed glance painted on all Barbies in the '50s and '60s, the era Houff prefers to work with (Interestingly enough, Ken has always looked blankly straight ahead). She doesn’t use dolls of the ‘80s, her own childhood era; as a young girl, she preferred LEGOs.
Jan 20–Feb 14. at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery