The world’s most famous doll is celebrating her 55th birthday, today. Barbie debuted in 1959 and has since amassed a following like no other. It’s estimated that there are over 100,000 Barbie collectors in the world. “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices,” creator Ruth Handler once said of the doll. Despite the best intentions, Mattel (and Barbie) has come under fire for promoting an unhealthy body image to young girls. Her impossible figure and perfect life have been a target for many artists who have subverted the Barbie norms to explore its absurdity and question feminine ideals.
The sickly sweet palette of Peihang Huang’s Barbie oil paintings take on a morbid tone once you realize that many of the dolls are battered and even dead (in the series Floral Funeral). Huang feels dolls are “the perfect figure to project human behaviors and philosophies.”