Stirring some controversy in Argentina, an upcoming art exhibit is to feature Barbie Dolls representing religious figures, including Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Conceived by artists Pool Paolini and Marianela Perelli, the exhibition – which will open October 11 in the Argentine capitol, Buenos Aires – is called “Barbie, The Plastic Religion.” On display will be 33 Barbie and Ken dolls, representing figures from Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as well as figures from Argentine religious folklore. The artists refrained from crafting a doll of the Prophet Muhammed, since Islam forbids representations of their faith’s founder.
In the past, the artists have been known for creating dolls in the likeness of prominent Argentine figures from sports and politics, such as Jaun and Eva Perón, famous soccer star Diego Maradonna and Leopoldo Galtieri, the former dictator who ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, which lead to war with the United Kingdom and, ultimately, his defeat and downfall. They also created a Pope Francis doll. The artists knew that their exhibition would create some controversy, but have stated that they have nothing against religion and fashioned the dolls to be respectful representations.
The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ dolls that will be on display at the exhibition are, not, however, the center of attention; the outrage that has been stirred up in the overwhelmingly Catholic Central American nation is over the representation of Difunta (Deceaced) Correa. Approximately 40 miles from the city of San Juan lies the town of Vallecito, home to the shrine of Difunta Correa. The story behind this place of pilgrimage dates back to the 1830s; a time when civil war raged in Argentina. A young man was conscripted to fight in the war, leaving his wife behind in the village of San Juan. The young man became sick and unit abandoned him. Having heard nothing from him, his wife, Deolinda Correa, set out to find him, taking her newborn child with her. She attempted to cross the desert on foot but died of thirst along the way. When locals from Vallecito found her body, they were amazed to discover that her baby son was still alive, suckling at her breast.
The manager of the shrine of Difunta Correa objects to the use of her image by the barbie doll artists. Speaking to local media, Daniel Rojas said “This is a figure of faith which we care for very much and it is why we patented her image and name years ago.” The artists were contacted by the authorities in San Juan and informed that they had to have permission to use the image. Rojas said that he would certainly have sued the artists if it were up to him.
The artists’ motive, according to their website, is to use humor to “highlight a fictional, historical, religious, political and universe where their elders are trapped.”
Several other art galleries in Argentina have already expressed a desire to display the exhibition after it has been shown in Buenos Aires. Currently, there appear to be no plans for the exhibition to be shown outside of Argentina.
By Graham J Noble