Timepiece or Reality Barbie Fantasized


17 x 13 x 13

Mixed media, working clock, (Fully articulated doll) glass & granite

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Barbie was born in March 1959 as a teenager, making her 65-70 on her fiftieth birthday. In March 1959 my mother was 21 and her measurements were 36 26 36, perfect. Fifty years on my mother has aged well though her measurements, at 71, have shifted.  I have taken my mother’s measurements and figured out the ratio differences between the 1959 mum and the 2009 mum. I have applied those ratios to the measurements of the original Barbie and developed a doll who is appropriately aged. I think, personally, that Barbie and my mother both look beautiful.

There is a lot of social pressure on woman and girls to stay ‘forever young’. Entire industries are built on our innate longing for social and private acceptance; externalized in the forms of physicality, beauty and youth.  Barbie as a cultural iconic has helped to teach generations of young girls what life could and should be like. Developed during the second wave of feminism, Barbie had it all, home, family, friends, boyfriend, vehicles, career…

But she never aged and I wonder what was lost in this. How does life go on when one looses their youth? Does one find their wisdom? Would Barbie have had children? Grandchildren? Would they have cousins? Would they all be happy? What heartache would life have brought? What does Barbie teach us?  After all she is just a doll. In fantasy things can stay static. In reality, those who reach too hard for enduring youth end up looking strikingly plastic. As shocking as it is to watch ones physical demise, nature has its own elegance and defying nature too stridently smacks of internal angst. Maintaining personal health and letting nature take its course takes immense internal fortitude when the pressures to succumb are, in this day and age, enormous.  And so, Barbie has aged graciously and with nostalgic reverie for times gone by.

Once upon a very long time ago I was a little girl. I was naïve and sweet and innocent. I played babies, had tea parties and dreamt of the day when I would be grown up and have grown up things. I knew I’d have a husband and children and I knew that if I was good and I followed all the rules my world would open up for me and provide me with a life that was full and happy. I believed…well, everything and every one.

I’ve often wondered how I got ‘here’ from ‘there’, how that ‘there’ became so lodged inside of me….and how, for goodness sakes, it got lodged inside of so many others around me. This is a series of sculptures which are loosely strung together through the exploration of the concept of icon. It is an outgrowth of exploring the iconic institution of ‘family’ in my previous solo exhibition Full Circle (2007).

Who we are, how we think, how we act is entrenched in mythologies and pedagogies developed over the centuries. We live in a world filled with embedded messages. Barbie teaches that youth is enduring and consumption is everything; action figures provide the prototype for wished heroism; the Cartesian world teaches us that thought liberates us; the church proselytizes heaven in exchange for indoctrination; democracy spins heady games ….a cacophony of lessons about love and living.


But reality is reality and life is filled with dichotomy and complexity.


How do we, in this 21st century, reconcile who we are with who we want to be? How do we withstand the massive influences of social dictates? What happens when the icon bumps into real life? Once Upon An I Con comments on life’s complexities – the reciprocal influences of the icon and the individual. Sculptures focus on portraits of people swayed by their idiosyncratic icons and lived dilemmas as well as icons bumping up against postmodern life. In reality, Brigette suffers from debilitating depression while having nightly dreams of a saving the world, Zaac wrestles with self image, Robi-Ellen reconciles the meaning of marriage (and divorce) as she shifts to life as a transgendered woman and I explore and expose myself in Madon-not: Failures in Virginity, Motherhood and Saintliness. In today’s world politicians posture 360 degrees of winning wooden smiles, society has shrunk its God, the immediacy of sexual gratification turns the ineffable nature of love crass, and no one escapes time, not even Barbie. In the end, the thinker (yes, you and I) is liberated and trapped by his thunk and this is one of life’s great paradoxes.

These works personify the evolution, messages and conundrums of our long human history. They explore the scope of social influence- how we collectively and often unconsciously embody social ideologies, – how we live and understand our place.

Jane Hook

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Jane Hook Sculpture