Michael Drummond, a fashion designer who appeared on Project Runway and who has been a friend of Becker since their days at McCluer High School, accompanied her on a few of her farmhouse forays. "We'd spend hours exploring other people's lives," he recalls. "They were like little plays. We'd create a story about the people who had lived there."

Drummond sees this same impulse — on an obverse scale — in Becker's Barbie, which began in a burst of post-thesis exhaustion combined with a subconscious filled with images from episodes of the BBC program How Clean Is Your House? and a long-time obsession with ReMent, a Japanese company that makes models of household objects at 1/6 scale. Becker's Barbie is an unseen but definite presence. You wonder how she could let the Dream House fall into such disrepair — what would Ken think? — and then you remember that it's only a series of photographs playing with your perspective.

For the record, Becker added the Barbie conceit only after some viewers at McColl, convinced they were looking at photos of her own house, suggested she seek help. Becker is scrupulously neat; she keeps all her ReMent props carefully stowed in bankers boxes beneath the worktable in her studio.

Earlier this summer at the Goodwill store in Brentwood, Becker stumbled across a 1/6-scale model of a townhouse that looks like the ones that proliferate in Soulard and Lafayette Square. It seemed providential. The dollhouse now occupies a corner of her loft, where she has been remodeling it with ugly wallpaper and brown felt reminiscent of decrepit Berber carpet. Trashing is still to come, followed by a Plexiglas fourth wall. At the moment she's photographing the house as it would appear at different times of day.

The work may sound tedious, but Becker revels in the actual process of making art. "As a kid I glued bits of sequins to a piece of paper to make an ombre pattern, except I didn't realize it was called that at the time," she says. "I love to go off and goof around without having an idea about how it will relate to 'Art.' It's just being creative. You're cutting up six-by-six-inch pieces of gauze dipped in yellow wax and shaping them into cylinders, and you do this literally a million times. And it sounds stupid as all hell until you see it standing on the floor. Then it's a crazy amoeba and it's not one color, it's thousands of shades of yellow!"

She laughs. "It's like play time all over again."

Click here to see more of Becker's work.

Click to return to our list of 2012 MasterMind Award winners.

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