Tuesday, May 8, 2012

barbies in a tight place

i spent last weekend in boulder, utah, the tight place of all tight places.  two hours from a supermarket or bank, population 120, and one of the two ways out of town along the hogsback, an eerie, terrifying road with steep thousand-foot drops and no guardrails on either side.

i've read that it's the most isolated town in the lower 48.

it's also one of the most beautiful, peaceful, spiritual places i've ever been, and we were welcomed with such kindness, openness and generosity by a group of people who mostly came there to get out of the tight place of mainstream american life, to live more deliberately, thoughtfully, lovingly, or beautifully.

there's way too much to say about this in a single blog post, but one thing i really loved there was the barbie art created by german photographer anselm spring.  we met in the  burr trail outpost, and anselm kindly agreed to show us his home and his studio.

we took our rented explorer (my toyota mini-van never would have made it) up a steep, steep mesa.  my palms were sweating and my heart was racing when a local in the car said, "you might wanna get some speed here."  i had to decide if i wanted to get enough speed to make it up the incline or risk going off the edge of the curvy road.

turns out the explorer had enough juice to get on up in that mesa.

anselm lives in a cinder block structure with a flat roof that was probably intended to be covered in stucco.  it was way cooler without the stucco frosting over top.  some other stuff about anselm:  he thinks dust and cobwebs are beautiful.  there were layers of dust on top of many things in the house, including the art.

his barbie art is a comment on the distortion of femininity ("the feminine is not about gender.  we're all both feminine & masculine.")

or is his barbie art a distortion of femininity?

whatever.  i liked it ("and yah."  that's how anselm ends practically every sentence.)

he's quite a good singer/songwriter & regaled us with four or five songs at the end of our visit, including a song for whitney houston on her death.

he made his reputation with photography, but has now given it up ("i used to photograph beautiful things.  now i photograph nothing.  and nothing is perfect.")  i think he had used that line before.

but i liked it anyway.

most people thought the barbie art was twisted & the photographs were beautiful.  i felt exactly the opposite.  what's wrong with me that i love things most people find disturbing?  granted, i adore barbie in all her distorted splendor.

there's so much, much more to say.  sadly, this is a blog post and not a chapter in a book, so i must end it here.

i know my life, heart, body, and mind changed forever in boulder this weekend, but i don't know exactly how yet.  i might begin to process it in the next few days or week, but i'm going to the most opposite place in the world, nyc, day after tomorrow, so it might be a while before the real processing begins.  

ken in a tight place

still life with boots, barbie styling head, and thick layers of dust
beautiful lavender flying barbie

barbie reclined on barbie styling head with no face throne in garden

barbie and shattered random concrete in garden

rock climbing barbie
legwear:  red tights (with red sandals & new strawberry shortcake dress, handmade in boulder, utah.)

inspiration: meeting people committed to people before things

looking forward to: new york city!


  1. What an incredible visit. I was moved by this post. Alexander McQueen also preferred the "ugly" and disturbing," so you're in very fine company.

  2. Okay, so remember how our girls were making Barbie art when they were four and five years old? Punk barbies with duct tape dresses and spikey hair? Those girls. Look at her now--congrats Eva!!!!

    1. i remember it well. it was the moment fully realized how rad our daughters are.