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Art from the Domicile: Part 2

The Barbie Doll, that iconic representation of American culture both highbrow and lowbrow for the past half-century, will play a starring role in the "Art from the Domicile Part 2" exhibition opening Sunday in The Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at Central Methodist University.

BarbieNinety-eight separate renditions of the famous fashion doll, The Kay Winegard Barbie Collection, highlighting the 50th Anniversary of the Barbie Doll, which was launched in March 1959 by American toy manufacturer Mattel Inc., will be on display during the "Art from the Domicile" exhibition that will run through Dec. 10 at the gallery. Winegard, a Fayette resident and long-time registrar at Central Methodist University, began collecting the dolls in the early 1990s at the urging of her daughter Renee, who had started collecting Barbie Dolls when she was a youngster.

"Years ago, I saw one is a magazine, but didn't get it because it was too expensive," Winegard said. Later, when Winegard began collecting, the cost of the doll she had seen in the magazine had escalated from one hundred or so dollars to more than seven hundred, still beyond the price Winegard was willing to pay. Just recently, Winegard's daughter presented her with that very same doll, "Masquerade Ball 1913," as a gift. Winegard said the first doll she purchased when starting her collection was "Classique Midnight Gala." Both dolls are included in the Ashby-Hodge exhibition.

"I really like the pretty-looking ones," Winegard said of her Barbie Collection. "I like the glitzy ones with sequins." Dolls of that description in the exhibition include "Fantasy Goddess of Asia" and "Queen of Hearts."

Winegard's collection of Barbie Dolls represents much of the 50-year history of their existence. The collection also includes dolls that represent the cultural fashions and times of numerous decades in American life the 1920s "Dance til Dawn," the 1930s "Steppin' Out," the "Fabulous Forties," and the "Nifty Fifties." Other intriguing figures include Marilyn Monroe dolls from her films "Seven Year Itch" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Elizabeth Taylor is represented as a doll in the films "Father of the Bride" and "Cleopatra." Other Barbie doll figures represent Portuguese, Greek and Chilean women, as well as American film and television personalities such as "The Munsters" and "Barbie Loves Elvis."

Origination of the American Barbie Doll is credited to Ruth Handler who, watching her daughter Barbara at play with paper dolls and noticing that she often gave them adult names, decided there wasArt from the Domicile Part 2 a niche in the doll market for adult-bodies dolls. She suggested the idea to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company, who was enthusiastic about the idea. During a trip to Europe in 1956, Ruth Handler came across a German toy, an adult-figured doll called "Bild Lili."

After returning to the United States, Handler reportedly reworked the design of the German doll (with the help of an engineer named Jack Ryan) and created the Barbie Doll, named after her daughter. The Barbie Doll went on to become a cultural icon and has been given many honors that are rare in the toy world. In 1974 a section of Times Square in New York City was renamed Barbie Boulevard for one week, and in 1985 the artist Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie.

"Art from the Domicile Part 2," the new exhibition is a gathering of 50 works of art from private collections in central Missouri and elsewhere, explained Gallery Curator Joe Geist. The original "Art from the Domicile" exhibition in the fall of 2002 also showcased art works from the homes of Missouri residents and proved to be a popular presentation by the gallery.