Long criticized for her anatomically incorrect body, Barbie has in many ways set our “societal standard” for body perfection; regardless if the intent of the doll was designed to replicate the female body.
Questioning the social constructs of perfection, particularly among women, Allie Pohl, a renowned LA-based artist, created the “Ideal Woman” by digitally enhancing Barbie to fit Western society’s ideal female measurements of 36-24-36. This avatar symbolizes anti-perfection (aka reality) and is repeated throughout Pohl’s work in sculpture, video, ceramic, and installation. In an effort to continue the conversation outside of galleries and museums, Pohl has made her work more accessible through the “Ideal Woman” jewelry line and sticker packs.
We sat down with Allie to unveil what motivates her, how she is communicating self-confidence through her work and about the lives and culture that she has influenced through promoting happiness within ourselves and not confirming to the pressures of our society.
GFMD: Given that so much of our culture is centered around the ideal body and beauty image of celebrities and models, how do we cut through the clutter of mass media to find beauty within ourselves?
AP:. We are inundated with images that “define” feminine beauty, but the reality is that most of these images are produced with the help of technology —altering the representation of reality. Improvements in communication technology have also allowed these images to be shared more quickly and frequently, which exacerbates their impact. Its all false advirtizing!
GFMD: What does Ideal Woman (hyper link) mean to you and what were your biggest inspirations for coming up with your brand and brand image?
I have always been interested in why we follow certain cultural trends. For example, the concept of body hair and hair removal: we remove hair from certain parts of our body and add it to others. As a way to respond to this cultural phenomenon, I created a series of sculptures using a “My Size Barbie” (the doll), as a metaphor for the ‘ideal woman,’ and I had Chia grow out of areas where our society removes unwanted hair, i.e. the armpit, vagina, and legs. The sculptures transformed from prepubescent to womanhood during the time of the installation. I was captivated by the shape of the midsection and started to explore different ways to appropriate the shape and what it really represented.
The Ideal Woman shape smiles back at you, reminding you that she is an unnatural, unrealistic, oversimplified portrayal of “beauty.” It is a reminder that YOU ARE THE IDEAL WOMAN—perfectly imperfect!
GFMD: What advice would you give to someone who wanted love themselves better?
AP: Don’t compaire yourself to other people! You are a unique individual on YOUR OWN timeline and path.
GFMD: When do you feel most beautiful?
AP: When I am smiling!
GFMD: What are the “key ingredients” to good self-esteem and feeling our most beautiful?
AP: Be yourself, be positive, surround yourself with people who believe and support you, the glass can always be half full; attitude is everything!
GFMD: When do you think you first became aware of the notion of perfection? As a woman who’s grown up in the western world inevitably surrounded by western culture and ideals, how have you been personally affected or impacted by such perspectives?
AP: The Ideal Woman series is about the idea of perfection, to question it. We are inundated with images or the notion of what is pretty, accomplished, successful, etc. I believe I became aware of this at a young age through comparison—academics, athletics, even as early as a growth chart. I was certainly always at the bottom of that! I am very short. I have always been the runt of the class. I was picked on, people would constantly pick me up, my mom would always encourage me to wear heels. Everything affects you; where you are born, where you go to school, what your family dynamic is like, your exterior. It’s impossible not to be affected by your surroundings and/or environment. How you interpret and digest what is going on around you is what makes you!