Yes, mistress. I love shopping too.
It’s Friday afternoon. You’re in need of a trim, or perhaps just some corny gossip from the hair barn. You schedule an appointment at Midtown’s Trendsetters Hair Design and show up a few minutes early. Inside, a young blonde woman, in a Spice Girls T-shirt and plaid skirt, has a dog collar around her neck. The chain runs from the collar to another blonde’s wrist. The second young lady reads a book as if nothing’s happening. Also, both women appear to be sitting on top of a naked man in a cage.
You’re totally affronted—until a second look reminds you that each of the women is a foot tall. Both are Barbie, and the man is Ken. It’s an art show; other similar pieces dot the room.
But wait. What kind of sick mind dreams up this stuff? And what is a BDSM doll show doing in a salon?
One of the sick minds, Alex Wilson’s, planned the compromising Barbie, Ken and GI Joe sculptures that lay on shelves and under glass at Trendsetters last month. Wilson was trying to explore what she sees as American obsession with beauty. “Growing up in America, I loved Barbie. I wanted to be Barbie,” she said in a recent phone call. “But as I grew up, I found that to be unrealistic. Women are having surgery to look like Barbie.”
Fair enough. But do people get that message when it’s delivered with a whip? Wouldn’t most see only Barbie getting flogged? “People see the S/M more than the original message,” Wilson agreed. “You can’t always get people to see what you want them to see. … We’ve iconified [the dolls] so much that people see them as little people.”
The exhibit debuted on October’s Second Saturday, and though the in-house response was fairly positive, some stylists expressed misgivings from the start. “One of the stylists was afraid images of male bondage would be linked to him,” Wilson said.
Customers had diverse reactions, too. “The Barbie dolls are pretty funny,” a customer in her mid-40s said in the salon the other day. “But I wouldn’t want my daughter to come in here. It’s unpleasant.”
Perhaps stylist Lucy Galindo put it best: “It’s an artist’s expression. If you like dark, I think people will enjoy it. But it doesn’t represent the energy of the salon.” True, the bondage crowd doesn’t seem to flock to Trendsetters.
Another waiting customer, when asked about the art, said, “I didn’t really notice.”
Really, though, what’s to notice? Michael Irvin, also a Trendsetters stylist and the show’s other artist, shrugged. His less-controversial doll-dismemberment collages adorned the walls. “They’re only Barbie dolls,” he said.