If you’ve ever been on Instagram then there’s a good chance you’ve seen Annelies Hofmeyr’s art. Barbie with melted boobs? With a middle finger up her butt? With blood all over the walls? Yup, that was all her.
Annelies is the genius behind Trophy Wife Barbie, a collection of awesome feminist scenes starring — you guessed it — Barbie. But this is not the Barbie of your childhood. As she explains on her blog,
“I use iconic Barbie imagery, with a little twist, to explore gender issues and the modern female identity while highlighting the limitations of labels.”
And you’ll probably notice that in addition to Barbie’s feminist message, she’s also sporting a giant pair of antlers. According to Annelies,
“The antlers are a physical representation of a label imposed on her and her friends, likening her/them to hunting trophies. Having labels imposed on you and choosing to live according to stereotypes are two very different things.”
And although Trophy Wife Barbie started on social media, she’s since become bigger than Instagram. Annelies recently had a gallery exhibit for the collection featuring Barbie and (her very diverse) friends as mounted heads on the wall. She’s also started selling art prints on the official website.
So I decided to chat with the creative mind behind it all and ask her exactly how she creates these epics scenes.
There seems to be such a huge appetite for feminist art and content right now. Why do you think that is?
There has probably always been interest in feminist art but I think social media has made communicating about it a lot easier. The discussions are not only had locally anymore and image sharing platforms like Instagram have made the global connections a lot more accessible. I’ve always been interested in providing an alternative to the female-as-victim/man-hating idea of feminism. I believe you achieve more by focusing on what you can change – yourself – and building up people’s self-esteem. Happy people don’t hate.
You recently had your first gallery showing for TWB. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came to be?
I had just moved back to Melbourne, Australia and was introduced to Mark, the owner of Lord Coconut – a shop specializing in contemporary jewellery for men. Every year, Lord Coconut supports Midsumma, Melbourne’s Pride Festival, and this year [he] thought it would be fun to do a Trophy Wife Barbie x Lord Coconut x Midsumma exhibition with mounted Barbie heads made especially for the festival.
Something social media often lacks is the challenge of having discussions with people you disagree with. Conversations are had between people that are already on the same page and can easily turn into a self-congratulatory message not heard by anyone else. I liked the idea of having an exhibition focusing on gender issues in a shop for men, using something as non-threatening as Barbie dolls.
There have been quite a few pieces focused on period stigma. Is this a topic that speaks to you in particular?
Before Trophy Wife Barbie I did a whole project on periods when Instagram removed an 8-second video of me dancing in a pair of period pants to Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”. Being shut down just highlighted to me that this was a topic that needed further discussion so I went on to post a period-related piece of adornment every month, mid-cycle for a year. I wanted to 1) highlight, and provide an alternative to, the socially accepted one-dimensional representation of women’s bodies, and 2) volunteer the contents of my uterus on a monthly basis in a bid to avoid being asked about pregnancy – the only seemingly socially accepted contents of a woman’s uterus. I continued exploring this topic with Trophy Wife Barbie as a way of circumventing censorship. Instagram has subsequently censored other posts but the period-related ones have remained intact!
TWB has some amazing outfits, including a vagina Halloween costume. Do you make all her clothes by hand?
I’m a bit of thrift store addict so most of her regular clothes are actual Barbie outfits. The opportunity for wardrobe creativity comes in when I explore themes outside of the Mattel agenda. I’ve used balloons as crop tops and underwear/swimwear before and the occasional sanitary pad has come in handy too.
Do you have a favorite piece from your collection?
The middle finger bum one! Melty boobs is a close second but that’s probably more me being fascinated with how popular it’s been. I tend to like the posts that were the most fun to shoot and the bloody bathroom scene had me laughing out loud.
You can follow all of Trophy Wife Barbie’s adventures on her Instagram here.