PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER—; Friday January17, 1986
Artist uses Barbie do as symbol of female stereotyping
BY MARTHA TANCOCK
It was while thumbing through the toy section of a Sears’s catalogue that Peterborough artist Joe Lewis came up with the idea for THE BARBIE SHOW, an exhibit of paintings — not dolls — now on display at the Peter Robinson lecture hall.
When the former Trent University ‘student saw the rows of Babies dressed in a variety of outfits, he saw not an innocent children’s toy, but a symbol of what he calls insidious stereotyping communicated by the western media. So there are no ‘real” dolls in this show, there are only painted variations of the clean, blonde and blue-eyed plastic model of this supposed womanly ideal, a premise Lewis rejects absolutely,
Lewis’s art is sarcastic, iconoclastic, a little frantic, and theatrical, reflecting perhaps his experience in Toronto and Brantford theatre groups. He amuses, he provokes. On the surface, his work seems like one big, flamboyant hoax. But the narratives that deface the images, the messy symbols that crowd his cheap paper canvasses, contain a serious intent and a clear message.
Lewis has managed to incorporate everything that he thinks is threatening in this world into the image of Barbie. At first she represents the dumb blonde who has more fun. He develops a perceived link between stereotypical women whose proper place is serving men and a rigid, right wing society that supports Ronald Reagan, who is equated with the bomb.
The most powerful image, perhaps is the final one: a pampered woman wears diamonds in one magazine photo, and another woman’s hands are shown at the typewriter “ Typewriters are a girl’s best friend.”The show continues into February largely for students who use the lecture hall. The public can see it Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 11a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 -10 pm