Calgary: Plastic fantastic

A few years ago Mattel announced that, after 43 years of dating, its plastic bombshell had ended her love affair with Ken. A woman with dozens of jobs under her belt, from NASCAR driver to paleontologist, even Barbie couldn’t keep it together. At the time I remember feeling baffled by all the media attention their break-up demanded—maybe because I was more of a My Little Pony kind of girl.

Oddly enough, I recently came to terms with my Barbie scorn when I found myself looking at work by students in the Alberta College of Art & Design’s wearable art class, Avant-Garb, led by artist and teacher Dee Fontans. On November 13, the 17 students took part in the Art Gallery of Calgary’s annual ARTWear event, which has become growing tradition in the city’s art community.

Chelsa Mossing saw this as an opportunity to illustrate how the idea of Barbie has set unattainable standards in today’s world.  Wearing a dress of nude dolls, the fourth year painting major makes a tongue-in-cheek reference to dressing up and role-playing and how budding curiosity was often followed by artificial answers. In her work, Mossing regularly explores working around the parameter of the body; she’s no stranger to confronting pre-conceived notions about sexuality and gender roles.

You know, cup and waist size aside, Barbara Millicent Roberts (Barbie’s full name) is, after all, an independent, educated woman who at one point ran for president.  And let us not forget, she has an exquisite outfit and perfect accessories for every occasion. Don’t get me wrong, Barbie won’t be making my Christmas wish list anytime soon, but if Vera Wang and Donatella Versace have her back, I suppose I could too.

Photography by Charlotte Furneaux

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