Barbadian artist Leann Edghill blogs about the second and third weeks of her Fresh Milk residency. These two weeks have seen an increase in Leann’s studio hours and level of productivity, with studio visits from art historian and curator Dr. Allison Thompson and visual artist Ewan Atkinson helping her to think more about her concepts, and encouraging her to consider pushing her boundaries to move out of her comfort zone. This residency is generously supported by the Central Bank of Barbados. Read more here:
My second and third weeks on the farm were very productive. I managed to start creating my first piece of artwork, and getting into the process of painting has been delightful. At first, I was off to a rough start, trying to figure out the composition of the piece, but I had a little help from Katherine Kennedy, Fresh Milk’s Communications & Operations Manager, and also my friend Shomari Harrison, who visited me on the platform for a week.
I spent a lot of my time painting in the spacious Colleen Lewis Reading Room, as well as having interesting discussions regarding the different activities that go on here at Fresh Milk and gaining some insight into how the space operates. I also extended my studio hours this week, giving myself time to dig deeper into the development of my work; more ideas keep coming to mind, and I can’t seem to get all of them on paper!
After being at Fresh Milk these past few weeks, and having studio visits with art historian and curator Dr. Allison Thompson and visual artist Ewan Atkinson, both of whom I knew from their roles at Barbados Community College, I am realizing the importance of taking several different approaches to my work and process. Being here has really made me challenge my thoughts and relationship with Barbie, which has been somewhat love-hate for many years. In a way, she is one of my best friends; we have been through a lot together (feminist backlash, issues around careers, family, friends etc.). We did everything together – or was that what Mattel wanted me to believe? Being here has allowed me to consider the doll’s status as an icon, and to reevaluate my connection to Barbie and the corporate powerhouse behind her.
Even though this icon has had major backlash for over fifty years, she still remains an idol to many young girls. I started to illustrate Barbie through simplistic line paintings. Using a minimal colour scheme, I created a different side of her, shifting the focus from just her beauty. I have an obsession with Barbie’s blue eyes and the way that her artificial stare captivates many, including me. I am playing with the contradictory ways her eyes can be read, ranging from innocent to sinister.
By creating melting patterns and distortion on Barbie, I want to question her classic features, and why it is that Mattel has kept this reoccurring imagery to the present day. Although Mattel has shifted with the times to some extent while keeping up with Barbie’s appearance, they have managed to always maintain those baby blue eyes. As I dig deeper into her construction, I realize that my fondness for her compels me to keep her signature look intact, even when attempting to distort her to reveal a different side to her image. It is this nostalgia that prevents me from disfiguring the actual doll; even destroying her as a painting is hard. Perhaps this is an area in which I need to challenge myself personally and artistically, considering the depth of this connection and what might happen if I sever it.