The Mariel Clayton Interview…Beware of Barbie!

The Mariel Clayton Interview…Beware of Barbie!

When I first happened across the work of Mariel Clayton, I had the same first reaction that I am sure most people have. That she was one Sick Puppy. Her most known works are photographs of the most famous doll of all time, Barbie, captured in some Very dark moments.  You do not know what mayhem ensued prior to these bloody, gory and/or sexually twisted moments, but she wants you to try and figure it out. “There is no ‘ultimate meaning’ to any of them. The background behind all of them, is that they are merely visualisations of ideas, maybe a pun or a phrase or a lyric that I have tried to make real. I try not to assign a message to all my works  in order for the viewer to come up with their own interpretation.” Mariel told us. Upon closer inspection of her works, I was really drawn in by the intricate detail and originality of it all. Taking a figure that is so symbolic of perfection, and smutting her up may sound like a cheap trick, but Mariel’s creations were as clever as they were outrageous. It was time for her to get in my Diary…

MD: My favorite element of your work is the fact that it twists Barbie into the exact opposite of what her creators would want her to be viewed as. The perfect woman, and Ken, being the perfect companion to that, turned into a homicidal, sexually twisted sociopath. What first inspired this concept?

Mariel Clayton: I’ve always been fascinated by the inner machinations of peoples minds. I’m intrigued by sociopathy and the whole outer facade/inner workings concept and how the two don’t always correspond. Barbie, as the ultimate stereotypical feminine icon just seems to lend herself to an alternate portrayal. I think because she has been idolised as the epitome of everything that is ‘good’ about being female, being sweet and docile and taciturn etcetc. She has been sanitised to the point where she has absolutely no pesonality whatsoever, so she just seemed to be the perfect model to explore the idea of this hidden evil. There was no time really when it wasn’t conceivable for me to use her in the pictures, it just makes perfect sense. Nobody is ‘that’ good, ‘that’ perfect – everyone is flawed in some way, and I wanted to explore that.

MD: Much of your work shows the calm after the very violent storm, where Barbie seems very pleased with her actions. Did Ken deserve to die in such a bloody mess…was it an act of anger that brought elation, or is she just a nutbag?

MC: I think she’s just a nutbag.
It’s not really so much about her motivations, as it is about how this is normal for her. It’s like with sociopaths who, while they know their actions are not considered normal or decent, feel no emotional upheaval over it, they go through the motions by rote.

Some of the pictures are obviously the result of a moment of anger ( see ‘PMS’ or ‘Put the toilet seat DOWN’) but the content has mainly evolved now to be moments of Barbies ‘normal’ alternate world. It’s not about anger or vengeance anymore, it’s about killing as an everyday function, like slow-cooking.

MD: If Barbie isn’t about to, or has just murdered Ken, it seems the other theme is her dominating him sexually. Is there any relation to her dominance and your own personal preferences?

MC: Is there any way to answer that gracefully?
Kens’ domination at the hands of Barbie is merely my way of saying that it’s about time that Mattel made a Ken Doll that actually looks like a man. Any doll that is prettier than Barbie deserves to be dominated. I think it’s just a running joke that Ken has ‘other’ appetites and I take full advantage of that, because it is funny.

MD: If you had to choose one character in your work, that you would actually have to be at that exact moment pictured, which one would it be and why?

MC: To answer the question, if I had to choose one piece from all my work, it wouldn’t be any of the ‘Evil Barbie’ characters – as I don’t identify myself with those thoughts or practices at all. I may find it funny coming from Barbie, but I don’t advocate that type of violence at all. The picture that has the most of ‘myself’ in it would be ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Again there is the theme of outer facade/inner workings that I enjoy, and I find that most people like to make certain assumptions about me, which have nothing to do with who I really am – so a lot of the time I feel that I am wearing a different persona when I go out the door. I think a lot of people can identify with that.

MD: What is your favorite feedback of your work to date? What was the most negative feedback from someone that you have a personal relationship with?

MC: I haven’t had any negative feedback from anyone that I’ve had a personal relationship with. All of my family and friends consider me a little warped to begin with, so this is nothing new for them. I think my brother said I was crazy, but he’s been saying that since before I started doing the pictures.My mum worried about me a bit when I started doing the pictures – but more for how they would be received, and how I would be perceived. My friends and family know me well enough that they don’t find my work ‘disturbing’ – they know that it’s a ( albeit very twisted ) branch of my sense of humour.

MD: What is your favorite memory of a dream, or fantasy? What nightmare do you recall that you despise the most?

MC: I’ve never had any ‘good’ dreams – my dreams are utterly surreal. I think the most impactful dream I ever had something to do with a shop selling amethysts on top of a mountain, and after I picked a particularly large one up from a basket, there was an earthquake, but I wasn’t afraid. My dreams seem to feature amethyst gems and the colour purple a lot. I don’t really bother with dream interpretation though, because I don’t think there is any ‘meaning’ to dreams – it’s how you choose to interpret the dreams that denotes meaning.

My worst nightmare had to do with me being a soldier and my village on the shore was being attacked, so I was trying to help everyone flee on boats, but I was not able to get on a boat myself as I couldn’t make it to the docks. I remember that all the little houses were built over water ‘canal’s and I hid in the water under the floorboards of one to escape. I remember hearing heavy heavy footfalls above me and people discussing how it was myself that they were attacking the village to find, and how they thought I was in the water so they would poison it. They dropped purple pellets into the water ( again with the purple ) – I remember watching the colour diffuse like ink. Mostly I remember vividly the awful awful screaming of people. That is definitely the worst dream I’ve ever had, where I actually woke myself up I was so afraid and my pulse was racing.

I have no idea what they ‘mean’ if anything.

MD: If you could read one persons diary, who would it be?

MC: If I had to choose a person, it would be the author – Orson Scott Card, in my opinion, one of the wisest writers I have ever had the fortune to come across. I feel that it would be fascinating to read his daily perspective on modern events and how he would internalise and digest what is happening around him that I could maybe draw a reference from.

MD: Do your friends with children hide their dolls when you come to visit?

MC: Nope, all my friends with kids live in foreign countries – and they’re glad of it I think!  They tend to hide the sharp objects though… and I’m never allowed to cut my own steak.

Thank you to Mariel Clayton! Visit her at The Photography of Mariel Clayton

Rate This

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

3 Responses to “The Mariel Clayton Interview…Beware of Barbie!”

Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments

  1. Thanks to follow on twitter!!!
    “Clodet-Illustrations by Clau”


  2. Mo says:

    FUCKING HILARIOUS. your talented.

  3. Carla says:

    it was really an interesting and informative article. pretty cool post! thanks for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Powered by Wordpress