The Barbie Show 1985-86



To meet a challenge from the owner of the Metropol Espresso Bar in Calgary to come up with an exhibition that would go in his hot pink vinyl lined Café I came up with a dozen or so works on paper exploring the roll of the Barbie Doll in contemporary society. “Lewis’ art is sarcastic, Iconoclastic a little frantic and theatrical” Martha Tancock “Peterborough Examiner Jan 17 1986”

PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER—; Friday January17, 1986

Artist uses Barbie do as symbol of female stereotyping


It was while thumbing through the toy section of a Sears’ catalogue that Peterborough artist Joe Lewis came up with the idea for THE BARBIE SHOW, an exhibit of paintings — not dolls — now on display at the Peter Robinson lecture hall.

When the former Trent University ‘student saw the rows of Babies dressed in a variety of outfits, he saw not an innocent children’s toy, but a  symbol of what he calls insidious stereotyping communicated by the western media. So there are no ‘real” dolls in this show, there are only painted variations of the clean, blonde and blue-eyed plastic model of this supposed womanly ideal, a premise Lewis rejects absolutely,

Lewis’s art is sarcastic, iconoclastic, a little frantic, and theatrical, reflecting perhaps his experience in Toronto and Brantford theatre groups. He amuses, he provokes. On the surface, his work seems like one big, 


flamboyant hoax. But the narratives that deface the images, the messy symbols that crowd his cheap paper canvasses, contain a serious intent and a clear message.

Lewis has managed to incorporate everything that he thinks is threatening in this world into the image of Barbie. At first she represents the dumb blonde who has more fun. He develops a perceived link between stereotypical women whose proper place is serving men and a rigid, right wing society that supports Ronald Reagan, who is equated with the bomb.

The most powerful image perhaps is the final one: a pampered woman wears diamonds in one magazine photo, and another woman’s hands are shown at the typewriter “Typewriters are a girl’s best friend.”

The show continues into February largely for students who use the lecture hall. The public can see it Mondays and Thursdays from 9 to 11a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 -10 pm




The Barbie Show

1. Title Card, (typewriters are a girls best Friend) 15” X 35”, collage on paper, 1985


2, Life without Ken: 36” X 72” collage on paper, 1985


3. Barbie at the unemployment office: 36” X 72” collage on paper, 1985


4. She goes Boom: 36” X 72” collage on paper, 1985



5, Prehistoric Cave Barbie, mono print, 1985


6.the sixties:  Barbie for Nixon: 36” X 27.5”, Tempera on paper, 1985



7. The Fast Lane. Factory Life, 19” X 24”, Tempera on paper, 1985


8. The Seventies: Ready for Re Hab, 36” X 30”, Tempera on paper, 1985


9. The Eighties: New Wave Barbie: 36” X 36” Tempera on paper, 1985



8. Atomic Barbie, Mixed media on Paper 18” X 24” in private collection


Barbie’s Dream House

A lifestyle installation ( a mystery)

1988; Artspace The Market Hall, Indisman Gallery, Peterborough Ontario


“Whimsical Blood Sponge Advertisement circa 1968”  20” X 22” college on paper, 1986


“A Selection of Her Enormous Wardrobe” 31.5” X 22”, paper doll clothes, nails and coat hanger, mixed media on paper, 1986


The Fast Lane. Factory Life, 19” X 24”, Tempera on paper, 1985


“Evade Responsibility? or die”  14” X 22”, collage 1986


“Not So Stupid”, 36” X 24”, unlimited photo copy poster. original art work is  Marker and white out on paper, 1988


Barbie Talks about: A, I, D, S

if you are going out for the night, right, and like you know like, maybe he might, or maybe even you might so. This is the number 1 Rule, doesn’t matter how many thingies you bring, if he didn’t bring the condoms, I mean if he really loved you, or if, he’s like the blind date Skipper set up your opening line should be

“Hello, how are you tonight how many condoms did you bring with you, there’s a drug store on the corner, What movie did you say we were going to see, I’m very happy” or something along those lines.

This is just one of the “Not So Stupid” things Barbie is trying to say. 1988


“Not so Stupid No.2”  36” X 24”,  Markers and white out on paper, 1988


Behind that Door , acrylic on Canvas 30” X 30” . 1988  (in private collection)  

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