Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Jennifer Bartlett "Prophetic Agenda and the Feminine Mystique" - Jarrett Engineering - March 19, 2003 - 1 1/2 stars

(5335 N. Tacoma Ave.). A federal judge ruled in 2001 that Barbie could be parodied by artists it, their work. Since then, artists have much abused this Mattel medium to explore sexuality, female stereotyping and pop American culture. Barbie exploitation is seen so often that it has become pitifully cliched, particularly in contemporary art photography. Just in time for Lent, Bartlett presents a softly focused, dramatically lit Barbie and Ken enacting stories of the Bible and the Apocrypha in this photo series with titles that include "Eve Defies Adam," "Ester Saves the Jews" and "An Adulteress Repents." You need not be a Bible-thumper to be confused by this show. It's a wee bit overwrought with intended symbolism, among other things, to be just goofy. Local photographer Cy McOuigg, who has done comparable doll imagery, does a much better job. Located in the far corner of a smoky old office (you have to weave between work stations to see it), the work is framed really nicely, complete with brass title plates. Not all atypical art venues work (hair salons, for instance) but the staff was gracious and this office had an eclectic charm. Here is a random smattering of national Barbie art photography to peruse: www.geocities.com/micromarty/ADbarbie.htm; http://helios.acomp.usf.edu/~difrey/. Through March 21, 2003. -Mary Lee Pappas

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