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  • Writer's picturePeggy Nichols

Debbie Korbel: The Art of Conceptual Sensuality in Bad Plastic


"My Bad Plastic series is intended to give everyone permission to laugh at the absurd fantasy that dolls lead libidinous lives. The dolls are given non-factory genitalia and are posed in various compromising positions.

Some of the sculptures are mounted on books, whose titles are part of the social commentary, along with found objects that have been integrated into a particular scenario's message. The 'Bad Plastic' series employs parody, literary juxtaposition, double entendres, and fantasy in order to comment on sexual taboos, politics, politics of sex, religion, ritual, while poking fun at what it is to be a human being.

God knows, we could all use a laugh!"


The Art of Conceptual Sensualist, Debbie Korbel

by Mat Gleason, May 2020

Be it human, animal, vegetable or mineral, Debbie Korbel breathes life into her subjects as a sort of art goddess creating existence itself. In an art work where referring to the craft of an object can be seen as pejorative, Korbel's work revels in its own triumph of the craftsperson behind it all. Little art these days honors its creator as thoroughly as Korbel's studio output.

For all of its narrative qualities, the sculpture of Debbie Korbel carries with it an overriding commitment to sensuality. These rugged, skin-obsessed objects exude they are to be touched as much or more as they beg to tell a story. Viewers can easily become entranced by the physical presence of the objects themselves and lose their way before the the plot completely unfolds, much like life itself. In this regard, they are more realistic than the hyper realism they approximate.

There is at the heart of Korbel's art a lust for and celebration of all things contained in the flesh. Beyond that, the artist imbues her work with a frenzied energy that proudly bears evidence of its own construction.

What anything here lacks in polish it more than makes up for in an emotional truth. The conceptual and the sensual are both privileged. Is art about thinking or about feeling? Korbel's sculpture has the emotional resonance in its very presence but delivers a narrative layer to activate our gray matter too.

Every Debbie Korbel sculpture carries with it a distinct personality, fully-formed, pulling us in as the work weaves a tale of our imagination. Her people contain multitudes of human foibles, passions and triumphs that we all carry. The artist taps into the universal connector of what it means to be human with an inspiring consistency. In an era where so many artists work to make objects with no connection to daily life, Korbel immerses the viewer in relatable scenarios amidst the mastery of her materials.

Debbie Korbel's "Bad Plastic" Sculptures

by Shana Nys Dambrot

Debbie Korbel: Doll Parts

Anatomical correctness is not really a feature of the Barbie Doll / military action figure world. They are known for their untenable proportionality in facial features and limbs, weirdly small feet, limited agility, monstrous breasts, impossible abs, and perhaps most notably, their total lack of sex organs. Poor Ken. Lucky for Ken and Barbie and Skipper and GI Joe and even Robert Pattison, sculptor Debbie Korbel is here to help.

In her mixed media assemblage series, "Bad Plastics", Korbel brings the capacities of her extensive sculptural and modeling skill sets to bear on certain augmentations, especially but not exclusively of the phallic variety.

She gives the males dicks, great big assertive sometimes absurdly large dicks, always a full set of testicles and usually fully erect. The females' bodies for the most part are already sexualized enough; they don't need much, but they deserve and get the lovely big pink nipples they have been missing.

In Korbel's sculptural practice ~ preceding and contextualizing this assemblage-based-project she regularly deals with subject matter that flirts with the Freudian, freakish, and fantastical. Clowns and fairies and demons and golems and winged things with fangs, anthropomorphized and fetishized animals and angels, and other creatures from the fraught terrain of the subconscious mind, classical myth and urban legend. Her wicked and naughty wit is everywhere apparent. And in much of that sculptural practice, she includes found objects and repurposed materials to costume and give narratives and gestures to her figures.

Much of the appeal of the assemblage genre comes from the auras of the found objects, which come loaded with their own pre-packed backstory and evocations, linked to their original function and to the memories of the artist and the viewer. The figures in Korbel's vignettes interact with settings devised from her own proper stock of found materials from industrial elements to toys, antiques, elements of nature, and especially toys and books ~ the latter of which also lend a literary, contemporary, and pun-drenched wit to the scenarios.

As for the dolls themselves, even as Korbel turns them out the remain infused with all the childhood innocence and naughtiness and post-feminist critique that come with them. Their cisnormativity propaganda and disgracefully smooth sex-part nubs have long made them easy props for inappropriate adventures ~ and now they are the perfect "found objects" for illustrating a Pop Art Kama Sutra of sexual liberation.

With heterosexual and same-sex couples and threesomes that sometimes include animals, cartoon characters, and unicorns, across race and apparent social cliques, bent over, texting on the phone, tied to a wheel, in oral and anal more mysterious configurations, these newly made-whole dolls romp and roll and try it every which way and loose. Everyone is smiling. Of course their faces can't move, but that doesn't change the fact that mood is utterly joyful.

Debbie Korbel is an award-winning artist whose creativity has been applied to various media including painting and sculpture as well as writing television scripts, short-stories and song lyrics. Her sculptures have been exhibited and collected internationally and appeared in movie and television shows.

"Humor, love, beauty, vulnerability, heartbreak ~ If I can get your to see or feel emotion for something I have created, then I have succeeded in making that human connection. We are no longer strangers; we are of like mind - if even just for a few minutes."

Debbie Korbel is a native Californian and works out of her studio in Los Angeles.

Youtube Video of Korbel Sculpture

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