For a plastic doll, Barbie can be polarizing. Emiliano Paolini and Marianela Perelli discovered this recently when their exhibit “Barbie: The Plastic Religion” at POPA gallery in Buenos Aires was cancelled. “Given repeated anonymous threats concerning the event, the artists decided not to exhibit his work, fearing for the physical safety of visitors,” a notice on the gallery’s website announced.
The 33 pieces in the controversial collection are each one-of-a-kind, and they include Barbie dolls as the Virgin Mary; Joan of Arc; Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction; and the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico. Ken becomes Christ on the cross, Buddha, Moses, St. Sebastian and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The sculptures represent figures from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Argentine folk religion. The Muslim prophet Muhammad is not included in the series—the artists told Reuters that since Islam prohibits the creation of his image they omitted him out of respect.
Questions of taste and faith have been raised by Argentine Catholic Priests, Italian Bishops, and Hindu Clerics, much to the surprise of the artists. “We have a sanctuary in the kitchen that has more saints than the Vatican,” Paolini told the Associated Press. Some have accused the artists of grandstanding—disrespecting religion in order to gain notoriety. They disagree.
“The true message of our work was mutilated by magazines and television. That’s a shame. The media is killing our art.” (Source)
The sculpted dolls are additional portrayals in the canon of religious iconography, weighted down with the 55-year legacy of a plastic girl and her boyfriend.