Malena Barnhart is an artist who makes feminist work. She holds an MFA degree in photography from Arizona State University and an undergraduate degree in studio art from the University of Maryland. Through repurposing mass-culture materials including YouTube videos, children’s stickers and party decorations, her work examines the role of enculturation in the continued marginalization of women. Her artwork has recently been exhibited at the Tucson Museum of Art, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Israeli Cinema Museum and the Hartman Center Gallery at Bradley University.
Malena Barnhart works with found cultural ephemera such as YouTube videos, stickers, bachelor party gag gifts and imagery from phone apps for children. Her chosen materials are not inherently harmful, yet in accumulation can limit notions of possibility for young girls.
In American mass culture, women are treated as both bait and prey. Their bodies function as tempting lures, effective for selling just about anything. Yet as consumers, they are expected to make purchasing decisions based on shiny packaging and their own perceived inadequacies.
From fairy tales to wedding boards on Pinterest, women are presented with an endless supply of beautiful things. Beauty itself is not problematic, but encouraging its association with value and status often makes girls yearn to become beautiful things themselves. Instead of seeking out aesthetic experiences, girls end up wishing to become the object of someone else’s.