Malena Barnhart is a feminist artist who makes art from repurposed cultural materials including YouTube videos, children’s stickers and party decorations. Her work centers around the process of enculturation and its role in perpetuating harmful gender norms. She received an MFA in Photography from Arizona State University and a BA in studio art from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work has been shown extensively throughout Arizona at venues including the Tucson Museum of Art and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. She has also exhibited nationally and internationally in locations including Washington DC, Chicago, Portland, Detroit, San Francisco, Finland, Italy, Israel and London. She has received awards including a Carmody Foundation grant, the Juror's Merit Award in Heat Wave: Desert Photography, the John Dorsey Prize for Outstanding Curatorial Practice and the Sadat Art for Peace Award from the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace & Development. Her work is in the special collections at Columbia University, the permanent collection of Northlight Gallery and the personal collection of Madeleine Albright.
Women are not a statistical minority, yet we continue to be marginalized. Through the process of enculturation, harmful gender norms are introduced to each generation. In childhood, we spend our time absorbing the rules and expectations of the culture we are born into. We observe our surroundings to gain information. Everything we consume reinforces what is expected of us and what we can expect from the world.
Increasingly, this process occurs through modern forms of mass media including television, consumer products and the Internet. It also continues into adulthood. We learn our culture from that which we consume, whether one is consuming princess toys, video games, or Pinterest wedding boards. I take these materials and repurpose them. I create videos, installations and 2-D works from mass culture detritus including YouTube videos, children’s stickers and teen posters. In reconfiguring these materials and creating new forms, I question their purpose and subvert the intended messaging.