Exhibitionists·In Residence

She's a BlackPowerBarbie girl in a Barbie world

Life in plastic? No way. The girls in these GIFs are unapologetically real. Meet this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, Toronto's BlackPowerBarbie.

Life in plastic? No way. The girls in these GIFs are unapologetically real

Toronto artist BlackPowerBarbie is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence. (Courtesy of the artist)

She's no doll — she's this week's Exhibitionist in Residence.

Amika Cooper is the 25-year-old Toronto artist better known as BlackPowerBarbie.

"When you hire someone named BlackPowerBarbie, you kind of know what you're getting into," she laughs. It's art about "feminism and Afrocentrism and being cheeky with a little bit of edge and fun."

Truth in advertising. Her animation is unapologetically feminine, unabashedly fun — and maybe just a little more stylish than the gals that are manufactured by Mattel.

Whenever people look at my work I really want them to see me as a Black woman and to see other Black women the way I see us.- BlackPowerBarbie , artist

A recent Ryerson media production grad, the artist was recently commissioned to animate a galaxy of megastars — from Denzel Washington to Diana Ross — as part of TIFF's Black Star programme, and she's been tapped by the Gardiner Museum to collaborate on an original installation with Toronto's Rude Collective. That Yoko Ono-inspired project will debut at the museum's upcoming Eyeblink party in April.

As she's written on Instagram: "2018 lit."

The GIFs we're airing on Friday's episode show off her signature style: pop-art illustration with a zap of retro, space-disco glamour. And they're almost always portraits of Black women, from celebrity icons to ordinary folks — ladies typically indulging in some witchy Millennial self care.

Says BlackPowerBarbie: "My sources of inspiration mostly come from everyday people, and women that I see on the street who inspire me through their own street style — through the way that they carry themselves without apology and then also, you know, women in the media like Solange or Tracee Ellis Ross or Janelle Monae."

"I think the reason why I focus on Black women so much is because we don't often get to control our public image and there's a lot of misconceptions about us and the way that we feel and the full spectrum of our humanity."

"Whenever people look at my work I really want them to see me as a Black woman and to see other Black women the way I see us. So I see how fun and funky we are, but also see that we have softer sides."

"We can be sad, we can be fragile, we can be vulnerable. We can be beautiful. You know, that's basically it. I just want to offer an alternative image."

Take a look.

(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)
(Courtesy of the artist)

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists online or on CBC Television. Tune in Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT).

About the Author

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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