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LaVonne Sallee


I was born in Roswell New Mexico, January 1946.   I was 1 year old when the aliens landed. Rumor has it that when they died they occupied the bodies of the babies in the territory and I am accused of getting my sense of humor from that occupation.

Growing up, I showed creative and artistic abilities but was discouraged in regard to making a profession out of my artwork.  At that time, in the 60’s, being an artist was thought to be reserved for hippies, bohemians, people who were not serious about financial security and did not have their priorities in order.


I was taught that what other people expected of me, thought of me and felt about me was more important than what I thought and felt about myself or what I wanted for myself. So I did all the things I thought would gain the approval of those I wanted to impress. I went to work for Corporate America in my 20s. I became a criminal investigator of white collar crime for a major Bank. I retired in 2002 after 25years of service.


In August 2006, walking down Market Street in San Francisco I saw some Altered Barbie’s in the window of a Market Street Art Gallery and stopped to look.  I had never seen this kind of artwork before. The Altered Barbie’s were a very different kind of Art. It was entertaining and humorous and I was inspired to create some of my own. I did not have one when I was a child and had no desire for one. I did not love her. I did not hate her. I was indifferent to her. But she had so much potential.


 I started shopping within days. I shopped at thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales to purchase used Barbie’s (and other similar fashion dolls) and props to create these pieces. I like the idea of making art out of recycled stuff.


I am not affiliated with any of the doll makers or the makers of the props or accessories I put in my pieces. I use these objects as my canvas.

In 2009 I moved from San Francisco to Vallejo California where I found a Live and Work Space and opened The Barbie Lady Art Gallery. I thought Vallejo would be my destination but it turned out to be just one step along the way. I stayed there for four years and met some wonderful people. One woman named Jazmin Jamias was a student film maker at City College in San Francisco and asked my permission to make a documentary of me and my art work for her term project. The film was one of the ones chosen for the film festival, and in 2011 to 2013 was shown in 18 film festivals across the United States and in Canada and Amsterdam.


I moved to Silverton, Oregon in December of 2013. My work was shown downtown on Main Street. My display of Altered Barbies received a lot of good attention but no sales to speak of. People came day and night to see the work and were greatly entertained by it. My Web site is: and/or


I realized that this sort of cult like atmosphere for Altered Barbies was a San Francisco phenomenon and would not be financially successful as it was in the Bay Area.


One day, I was dumpster diving in the alley downtown Vallejo and found a torso of a wall hanging mannequin discarded by a neighboring merchant. The mannequins neck was broken so I took it back to “The Barbie Lady Gallery” and beaded the mannequin between customers.


When it was clear that Altered Barbies were not going to sell as they did before, I had already created 5 Beaded Ladys. I decided, that because of the pleasure it brought to me when I was creating them, I would focus on the Beaded Ladys and let Barbie go on vacation.

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