Kimiara Johnson of Pine Bluff recently displayed three dolls that she designed in the Sonoma Community Center's Barbie: Reclaimed & Reinvented exhibition at Sonoma, Calif. They are not your mother's dolls, but they do have a foundation in Johnson's own life experience.
"I chose to use two dolls depicting physical challenges to display the importance of inclusivity in play and inclusion for individuals with such challenges and/or disabilities (to have a doll they can identify with)," Johnson said.
"Therefore, I wanted to shine a light on how important it is to provide positive representations for empowerment, self expression, confidence and self-esteem purposes to the population of individuals with physical challenges," she said.
Johnson graduated from Pine Bluff High School in 2008 and attended the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. In 2011, she withdrew from the university after an accident, the injuries of which left her immobile and unable to walk.
She said she painted with the best of her abilities, which motivated her to learn to walk again and produce art. Johnson reenrolled and graduated from UAPB in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies, according to the blog.
Johnson was also among the artists whose work was displayed in the Small Works on Paper exhibition, a program of the Arkansas Arts Council. On Nov. 14, Johnson participated in the virtual doll exhibit at Sonoma, where she showcased three dolls.
The Tropical Treasure Barbie was inspired by Johnson's Nola Reception Couture Gown painting shown in Small Works on Paper on display Sept. 24 through Oct. 24 at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Also at Sonoma, Johnson displayed Jewel Barbie and her Fancy Wheelchair with Ramp and Mosaic Rose Barbie with a painted prosthetic leg, Johnson told The Commercial.
The online exhibit will be available through today, and the dolls are also available for sale, according to the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
"This year was the first virtual show for the Barbie: Reclaimed & Reinvented exhibition sponsored by Mattel, Whole Foods and other partners," according to the article.
"Kimiara joined the live virtual showing of the Barbie: Reclaimed & Reinvented exhibition via Zoom with Sonoma Community Center and Mattel. This year's online exhibit includes a silent auction of the dozens of cast-off Barbies rescued from local thrift stores and recycling plants repurposed and dressed in tiny trash couture by artists to benefit the Sonoma Community Center," according to the article.
Johnson used all recycled Barbie dolls from Mattel to repurpose for the exhibition.
The artist has been painting and designing since she was 3 years old, according to an Arts & Science Center blog. Using diverse mediums, she is inspired by culture, fashion and texture, she said.
Her latest work in the virtual show at Sonoma can be seen on YouTube at https://youtu.be/MjyuIxI8rD4.
People may also view the dolls until 10 p.m. (CST) today at https://sonomacc2020.ggo.bid/bidding/package-browse. There's an option to bid or donate. Proceeds go toward arts and education programs at Sonoma Community Center, Johnson said.