Danbi Heo’s series, Toys! Toys! Toys!, explores gender identity through monumentally scaled oil paintings of vibrant and colorful toys in a style reminiscent of Pop Art. With colorfully designed backgrounds that suggest the toys’ functions, the paintings hint at toys and their extraordinary cultural appeal to children and the adults who purchase them. Toys are influential to children, affecting their understandings of gender, class, behavior, career-path, cognitive ability, and activities. The article Pink gives girl’s permission: Exploring the roles of explicit gender labels and gender-types colors on preschool children’s toy preferences by Erica Weisgram stated that when children are offered gender-typed and non-gender-typed toys, they prefer the toys with familiar gender associations. Gender stereotypes deliberately exist in toys and subconsciously affect children, prompting an examination of the ways in which toys are designed, advertised, and specialized to reinforce these gender standards.
The toy industry carefully designs toys to target children by using sensually attractive advertisements. Pop art, an art movement beginning in the mid- 1950s that challenged traditional fine art through the inclusion of popular culture, also uses advertisement-like imagery. I have intentionally designed backgrounds for each individual toy to invoke similar methods as popular advertisements, thus exploring identity through commercialism. Within these paintings are geometric, colorful patterns that sometimes follow a specific system, referencing the sensuousness, attractiveness and irresistible appeal used by the toy industry. Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.” In my paintings, the toys’ large scale demands attention and uses patterns to create a shallow depth of field, causing the painted object to encroach abruptly upon the audience’s personal space and inspire deeper consideration.