Saturday, Jun 23, 2018

Mostly Cloudy, 67 °F


The exhibit will be in the Women’s Center on the third floor of Baker Center from now until Feb. 24

Photo courtesy of: Kari Gunter-Seymour

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Exhibit opening reintroduces Barbie to Appalachia

Exhibit shows Barbie’s unglamorous side

Last Friday, the citizens of Athens were invited to have a conversation with photographer and Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Communication Designer Kari Gunter-Seymour at the opening of her exhibit "Barbie Falls on Hard Times" in the Women’s Center.

“Barbie Falls on Hard Times” aims to spark an internal dialogue with its audience, who may experience familiarity with Seymour’s images and their own personal memories.

“I was raised in Appalachia, and one of our favorite things here is storytelling,” said Seymour. “Someone will track me down and they will tell me a story about something in the photograph that either happened to them or a relative. They will always have a wonderful story to tell me, and I just love that!”

Eight or nine years ago, Seymour realized the true impact that the ubiquitous Barbie doll had on her development. Her most recent project displays these influences through voyeuristic peaks at Barbie in her natural habitats.

Photographs display Barbie in frenzied states. Stressed, binge eating chocolate, or stepping unknowingly from the bathroom with a scrap of toilet paper still stuck to her tiny high-heeled shoe.

“She’s a real girl. She has the same problems we do,” said Seymour. “She’s really not up there on a pedestal. Society has done that, and we have done that by allowing it to happen.”

Although Barbie has long been a catalyst for media attention concerning the pressure for women to achieve the perfect female form, Seymour doesn’t blame the curvaceous icon.

“This whole society on women thing and Barbie thing has been done to death, but it’s because nothing is changing,” said Seymour. “We’re not doing anything about it. We’re being complacent.”

Seymour attempts to humanize the iconic figure by presenting everyday scenes in the photographs, but this attempt is also demonstrated by the origin of the dolls she used in the series. The dolls featured in the photographs were donated by a local consignment shop after Seymour explained the aim of her project.

“They came as they were,” she said. “Some of the little girls had painted finger nail polish on them and one of them had stuff all over her mouth which I still managed to use. One doll had her hair all cut off. That just added to the ambience of the whole thing.”

One of Seymour’s biggest influences for the project was Vivian Mahier, an amateur street photographer from the decade of Barbie’s first commercial appearance.

“What I loved about her work was the way she used light and was able to capture people in these positions and these moments in their life and they didn’t even know it,” said Seymour. “That’s what I’m trying to capture with Barbie. She doesn’t know I’m there in most of the portraits, she’s not looking right at me.”

To become a fly on the wall of Seymour’s Barbie-spheres, visit the Women’s Center on the third floor of Baker Center from now until Feb. 24.