Asian Barbie waves to rafters while sitting with her friend on the bank of the Arkansas River. The photo is part of Tina Gramann’s art exhibit at Salida SteamPlant (photo by Janet Varnum).

Tina Gramann was hiking near a bubbling brook in Browns Canyon, enjoying the beautiful scenery, when the idea to merge landscape photography with an Asian model began to unfold.

“I was just observing nature and thinking about how picturesque it was,” said Gramann, whose photographic series, Scenes of Asian Barbie in Rural Colorado, as well as her original paintings and graphic design art continue at the Salida SteamPlant’s Paquette Gallery through March.

“It’s important to show diversity, especially in rural locations,” said Gramann, who was born in Bryan, Texas, and grew up near Houston. She chose Asian Barbie to be her model as a tribute to diversity and her own Filipino heritage. Gramann’s father came to Texas A&M University from the Philippines to obtain his Ph.D. in engineering. When he graduated, his mother warned him not to return home because Ferdinand Marcos had just declared martial law in the Philippines. So her father stayed in Texas, married and raised a family.

Asian Barbie hikes through Colorado’s beautiful spaces in Tina Gramann’s photography on view at the Salida Steamplant through March.
Photo by Janet Varnum

Before moving to Salida three years ago with her husband, Brian Beaulieu, Gramann operated a children’s theater company for 10 years in Austin. Most of her professional career has revolved around theater, choreography and education.

Finding an Asian Barbie can be difficult, said Gramann, whose show includes an article by Kelly Kasulis about Asian Barbie’s addition to the Barbie doll family. Gramann settled on a Miko Kira Yoga Barbie for the photo series because of her “poseability.”

In the photo series, Asian Barbie does what most Colorado hikers do. She rests on a log surrounded by lovely aspen gold, she wades into an alpine lake with the Chalk Cliffs in her sights, and she and a friend wave to a passing raft on the Arkansas River. In one photo, Asian Barbie sits cross-legged in a yoga pose atop a snowcapped boulder. Gramann said most of the doll’s clothing came from Barbie collections on Ebay, but she had to search GI Joe clothing to find the tiny camo coat, hiking boots and binoculars.

“Floating Tropicals” by Tina Gramann. Photo by Janet Varnum

Gramann’s debut art show, like her art style, focuses on self-expression. Her paintings and pastels are colorful depictions of monarch butterflies, tropical flowers and succulents. “With the monarch butterflies, you can sit at a traffic light in Austin and see hundreds of them migrating every October. They feel like part of my roots. They are a comfortable thing, like the tropical flowers. It’s not like I ever lived in the tropics, but it’s in me somewhere.”

Monarch butterflies appear in Tina Gramann’s artwork. Photo by Janet Varnum

The art exhibit is free and open to the public. The SteamPlant Paquette Gallery is open daily during office hours and during events.