IN ”PROJECT B” NICOLETTE BÉNARD INVESTIGATES BARBIE’S POSITION AS AN ICON OF BEAUTY AND ASKS: IS IT IDEAL BEAUTY OR FALSE IDEALISM?
JULIE JOHANNE SVENDSEN | ARTICULATE #20 | JULY 2019
The Dutch artist Nicolette Bénard (1967) is mainly known for her jewelry designs. Over the past year, she has turned her creative impulses towards a quite different field. Instead of pearls, coral or even lava, Bénard has entered into a creative collaboration with no less than Barbie, who this year celebrates her 60th birthday.
In ”PROJECT B” Nicolette Bénard investigates Barbie’s position as an icon of beauty – the sum of the perfect, indulgent woman – and asks: is it ideal beauty or false idealism? "PROJECT B" consists of a series of almost unrecognizable Barbies, which are framed in plexiglass when exhibited. Bénard takes advantage of Barbie's diligence, and instead of applying her a fine little outfit with matching shoes, she deconstructs her and creates these mini installations. "PROJECT B" is in a borderland between being adorable and absurd, being quite foreign and quite recognizable at the same time; because behind the balls of fabric, under the all-absorbing flowers and behind what looks like cement with nails in, we can still see Barbie's fastidious hands and the elegant legs stick out.
Bénard draws inspiration from the events that shape the realities of everyday life, as well as from the cities she exhibits in (Amsterdam, London, Brussels and Madrid). From an idea she searches for materials that can manifest this best. The materials vary from fabric and paint to clay, plaster and flamingo, and are always shaped with Barbie as a starting point. From here, Barbie is transformed from a beauty ideal - a cultural symbol of beauty and etiquette - into an abstract object whose meaning is left to the individual to create.
In her work as a jewelry designer, Bénard's favorite material is the freshwater pearl. For Bénard, this is an embodiment of perfect beauty, and preferably when it is raw and gravel rather than round and symmetrical. The threshold between perfection and non-perfection is a central theme in Bénard's artistic work, whether it is in connection with jewelry production or work with "PROJECT B". Bénard has not left the pearl completely in her work with Barbie: In nearly all the works you can find a little gem that acts as Bénard's signature.
This article about NICOLETTE BENARD takes part of ARTICULATE #20. Read, download or order your print version of the full publication below