It looked like a statement on women in the postmodern world, the work of a crazed Barbie fiend (with a fetish for Chanelesque suits) or a madcap installation artist’s very effective way of shaking a little life into Lake County.
No matter who created the art piece in Reiswig Park, whether they intended it to be art or not, it’s had creatives around the Okanagan talking all week.
Asked if he masterminded the rows of Barbie knock-offs planted, foot-in-cement style along the beach, UBCO professor and man-about-town Michael V. Smith could only quip “I wish.”
The Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art’s summer intern, Asher Klassen, was equally dazzled. “I wish I could tell you who was behind it. I think it was brilliant,” he said.
Similar coos came from Katie Brennan, who has worked with the Lake Country Art Gallery for years and regularly shows in the town’s public space.
“There was a post on Facebook from a mutual friend of (artist) Wanda Lock and I, Neena Sood, whose husband first discovered the dolls on the beach and so we all ‘liked’ it. Then Wanda emailed me and said, ‘OK, did you do it?’ And I said ‘no.’”
The jet stream of social media comments, missives and suggestions—lewd, crude, supportive and otherwise—streaked across the valley like an over-hyped college student in frosh week.
It had elements of the community’s new art wall, in Brennan’s view.
“It’s been this really engaging project. A lot of people still look at it like they don’t totally get it, but it’s really fun, especially for those of us who are in the know. When someone has added to it we all want to know who did it—and then we’re thinking, OK, what am I going to do next?”
Lock, Rose Braun and Angelika Jager have all featured prominently on the wall, as has Brennan, whose signature line art has already been painted over.
The wall sits in front of the community’s art gallery and was put up by the Lake Country public art committee, initiated by Lock, who wanted to capitalize on an anonymous graffiti artist working in the area.
“We had someone at Petro-Canada who was doing some really wonderful work on the wall beside the gas station and it was echoing back and forth,” she said.
Lock fully admits she loves graffiti, even if that is a bad word in the Okanagan. The dolls, in a similar vien, offer an ingenious spark communities need to loosen up public discussion, in her view, and she’s hoping the effort inspires many more acts of creativity.
“It takes the preciousness out of art,” she said. “I think it’s amazing because it’s not the stereotypical artist, per se.”
The valley isn’t really ready to have people randomly adding to its murals or having a visual dialogue where people freely add to its commissioned art pieces, she said. The dolls are exactly the form of upstart spontaneous thought that could spur a season of engaging public art without the view it’s causing damage.
“My wish for the rest of the summer is that people will come and add things to our wall or do little installations and give others the seed to think outside the box or outside the gallery wall,” she said.
The Lake Country Art Wall is ready for anyone and everyone to contribute. As for the dolls, it has been reported the effort was a gag done by a cluster of UBCO students.