Photographer Expands Beleaguered Barbie Series

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Last year, Athens artist Kari Gunter-Seymour made local headlines with her photo exhibit Barbie Falls on Hard Times, which featured the well-known Mattel doll in unusual, occasionally shocking, situations.

Now Gunter-Seymour has expanded her series with Barbie Falls on Hard Times: More Mayhem From the Malibu Beach House, opening this Friday at UnionArts Gallery in Athens.

From the beginning, Gunter-Seymour's purpose in creating the series has been one of activism, focusing on American women's unrealistic loathing of their appearance and lifestyle.

"It stems from a culture that encourages females, at a very young age, and throughout their lives, to look at their bodies and compare themselves to the persona of unrealistically pretty, successful high fashion 'glamour' dolls–a practice that enhances mental and physical issues concerning body image–that can seriously impact health and overall well being," she explained.

Work on the series began in late 2011 after WellWorks, Ohio University's wellness center, provided Gunter-Seymour with a variety of web URLs focusing on realistic approaches to women's health issues (that information will be available as part of the exhibition).

For Gunter-Seymour, the goal has been to challenge herself–not only as a photographer, but as a set designer, makeup and hair artist, lighting director, concept engineer and storyteller.

"I spend countless hours constructing each environment, concentrating on all the tiny details, making sure I tell a story that those who are viewing the work can readily understand," she said. "Each time I do this, I learn something new…techniques that I apply to other projects I am working on, and so I grow as an artist."

The series, which has been expanded from six to 30 photographs, has been a positive experience for Gunter-Seymour, but for her, the real reward will be this Friday's event.

"It's seeing the faces, hearing the comments, reading the emails of those who see the work," she said. "The images are such that all women, no matter age, ethnicity or pay grade, can view, relate to and hopefully begin to consider that glamour doll beauty need not be the gauge by which they judge themselves, their bodies and their life situations."

Friday's exhibit opening will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Attendees will be able to meet Gunter-Seymour, as well as poet Kris Williams, who will read from her work. Light refreshments will be served.

UnionArts is located at 15 W. Union St., underneath Haffa's Records. Hours are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment.