If you love art and feminism, you’re going to love Allie Pohl. A conceptual artist, Allie creates art—from sculpture, video, ceramic, installation to a jewelry line—informed solely by her feminist values. Her work has been showcased in galleries across the country and she’s built a reputation for questioning the social constructs of perfection. Read on for her take on art’s role in feminist movements, her “Ideal Woman,” and more!
Would you describe yourself as a feminist artist? Why or why not?
Absolutely! I am a feminist and it is the only lens I create work from.
You describe your “Ideal Woman” art work as “anti-perfection.” What was your inspiration for this concept?
The “Ideal Woman” series was created by taking Barbie and blowing her up to Western society’s “ideal” female measurements of 36-24-36. “Barbie” is an American cultural icon, born in 1959 (derivative of the Lilli doll), at the dawn of Post-War consumer culture. While originally intended as a toy for young girls, its ubiquitous presence resulted in a brand that has come to represent the ideal of female physical perfection. Although she has become more diverse and ambitious over the years, her physical shape has not really changed. She is an unnatural, unrealistic portal of beauty.
On a more general level, Barbie is a perfect example of how contemporary society’s standard of beauty is largely determined by our consumer culture. We are inundated with images that “define” feminine beauty, but the truth is that most of these images (or individuals) are produced with the help of technology—altering the representation of reality. Improvements in communication technology have also allowed these images to be shared more quickly and frequently, which exacerbates their impact.
With all of these physical and digital alterations I think it is very important to be reminded that YOU ARE THE IDEAL WOMAN. If I can create iconography that reminds all women that they are perfectly imperfect, it would be a dream come true.
Tell us about your latest series, “peacocking,” which takes on the male form. Do you think men feel as much pressure to fit physical standards of perfection as women do?
Yes, I think this notion of perfection is universal. “Peacocking” was inspired by online dating, particularly the ever-so-popular Tinder app. I chose to explore how men market themselves to women. From my research (online and in person), I created man merit-badges (based on the traditional boy-scout badges) of the qualities men most commonly try to convey.
I also made sculptures of dissected male mannequin parts from different decades (finished in the most popular car color of the corresponding decade) to show how the idealized male form has changed over time, and to highlight how contemporary men are also subject to society’s notions of perfection.
Given the change in cultural trends, this is not surprising. Gay culture has become more accepted—both socially and politically—men are getting married later in life, resulting in them spending more money on themselves. You open up GQ today and you might as well be reading Cosmo; there’s everything from designer clothing to shaving products.
What role can art play in mainstream feminist movements?
Just as the image of the ideal can be spread rapidly through advertisements, art (and images of art) can be shared and spread just as easily so art is very powerful tool in furthering any movement.
If you had to choose, who is your number one feminist role model?
Simone de Beauvoir.