Barbie artist Nicole Houff to judge a doll-themed contest for the Uptown Art Fair

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Nicole Houff's muse is Barbie. Now, the Minneapolis photographer hopes that you find inspiration in dolls and action figures, too.

Uptown Art Fair

Calhoun Square

“I’m not going to lie,” she told City Pages last year, “to me, Barbie is this ass-kicking woman.”

As the commemorative artist at this year's Uptown Art Fair, Houff and her work are the inspiration for the festival's All Dolled Up contest, which encourages people to get creative with their toys and post the results. Houff will help judge, and City Pages, which is sponsoring the fair and contest, will share some of the best entries.

Participants are asked to create a diorama using dolls and/or action figures — whether they're Bratz, He-Man, My Little Pony, Trolls, or collector's vinyl creations — and snap the setup with a camera. 

Folks will then upload their submissions to the contest site, where visitors can vote on their favorites. There are already some hilarious and awesome entries, including KISS in space, Barbie hanging out with a dolphin, and some Spoonbridge and Cherry shenanigans.

While your setup doesn't have to be as intense, Houff estimates that she has hundreds of Barbie and Barbie accessories, from vintage to newer pieces, in her collection. She uses these pieces to create photos of the iconic doll in various situations: partying at a masquerade, enjoying a glass of wine while doing laundry, on the job with her flight crew.

“When I photograph her, I view her as positive, strong, and totally in charge, and I try to depict her as such,” she says.

Houff has shown her work around town at Gamut Gallery, Twin Cities Pride Festival, and regularly at the Uptown Art Fair. This year, as the commemorative artist for the latter, her work can be seen on a poster where a posh Barbie and Ken pose in front of the iconic Uptown sign.

The deadline for submissions to the contest is July 2. All ages are welcome to apply. Visit for more info and to enter.