Over the past decade I have been using action figures as the main subjects of my artwork. They have worked well as a substitute for people to tell stories about the human condition. Ironic isn’t it? I like the fact that these stand-ins made for play and for imagining an adult life by children, work on an adult level too. We can use these toys to investigate social and political ideas in ways that the manufactures have never considered.
Along with the figures, Barbie™ or G.I. Joe™ really only two of many lines of figures by various manufactures, come little parts that make up their ensemble. A whole host of objects that help create a setting for kids are available: shoes, guns, stylish clothes, camouflage uniforms, cars, toys, pets, cosmetics, and so on. You can buy whole kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms all accompanied with appliances, furniture, lamps really anything you’d expect available for purchase at an Ikea or Wal-Mart. Everything and anything you could think of to fit out a story or scenario that a child might imagine. As my collection of both figures and these accompanying objects grew, I wondered about the association between desire and ownership of these bright, desirable, eye-catching items. More importantly, I wondered about the connection between these bits of plastic and the larger items they imitated. Did they begin in the child the want we for these things we have as adults?
I’m not a person to believe in conspiracies. I don’t think the toy companies set out to create a desire beyond the craving for their particular toy. But I did see a connection between the things they included and the things we crave as adults. This brings up the classic chicken or egg question. Are the items in the play-sets the beginning of our obsessions for certain material objects, or simply a reflection of preexisting desires to want those objects? Do women obsess over shoes, hair, make-up, fashion and so on? To be sure some do, and some do not. For those that do, does a preoccupation of owning 5 subtly different types of black pumps come from their time spent with a doll or is there some other influence or compulsion at work? Do men drool over a sleek sports car as a part of their nature or did Hot Wheels™ put the desire in their heads? Is a need to own guns a reaction to a perceived threat, either personal or political, or does the memory of putting a gun in the hand of an action figure still resonate?
Each obsession, in this body of work, has been formed into a grid 3 wide and 3 high. I have placed them against the same color scheme to equalize their importance. The colors suggest a pop art approach yet the use of these objects is not an homage to the ordinary, rather it is an investigation into the things that we desire, that preoccupy us and that we can’t imagine living without. Like a scientist I want to show you a cross section of these items, and so I have catalogued them and named them. To be sure I am not immune. I have my own obsessions. One of them has become collecting these pieces of plastic photographing them, and creating this body of work. Ironic, to be sure.