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Art & Life with Leigh Barbier

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leigh Barbier.

Leigh, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, California, and grew up on a gravel road, running barefoot and free between neighbor’s homes. I attended a Christian Science church every Sunday and Disneyland once a year. I remember thinking as a small child that Sees candy was a religious destination and God looked like a tube of toothpaste. Later museums replaced Sees candy and I found order in the universe through art.

I am drawn to religious art, admire Thomas Hart Benton’s line and color, adore the muralist of the Mexican Revolution and can`t get the images of Disney from my 1960s childhood out of my visual vocabulary.

I have found that the work I have done to earn a living has impacted me more than anything I learned in college. From museum model-making to digital painting for the special effects industry; they have both shaped and condensed my hands on skills and sharpened my eye.The highlights have been working on dioramas for the California Academy of Sciences, being part of an all-girl team to make a giant baseball mitt for the Giants stadium and digitally painting on Star Wars, Episode 2 and 3. My best freelance opportunity to date has come from my experience working with the San Francisco musical group, The Residents over the last 15 years. This has been the perfect combination of work and art, an opportunity to combine my vision with the narrative visuals of the Residents’ myth-making.

For me, making drawings, paintings and sculpture is a simple and direct process of giving emotions form. This compulsion, along with my over-active imagination that perceives peril around every corner, drives my image making.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I draw, paint, make sculpture and recently have been doing some very short stop animation films. I paint heads obsessively, both as a studio warm up exercise and a starting point for all my image making. I have made several pieces on cardboard recently that feature multiple heads communicating with each other. So if you lean in close to the paintings you can hear a hum and feel the energy. I call this series Batteries.

I created a character named Florine, part monster, part super hero, capable of shape changing by taking on physical attributes from objects around her. She is realized in both drawings and sculptures.

Another series is called Misfit Army as a reaction to the #MeToo movement. They are large figures painted in black and white accompanied by smaller, more intricately drawn heads that I collage onto the paintings.

Most recently I have been making small drawings with colored pencil while sitting in bed. I like the challenge of telling a large psychological story within a small confined space of 8”x10”.

My message I suppose although it’s not something I think about when I am creating, is what it feels like to be human, to hopefully have the viewer feel a feeling or remember a feeling they forgot, to feel seen and understood, to dispel shame, to feel less lonely…to feel connected.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
I think the biggest challenge is finding the balance between what you do to pay the bills and your studio practice. Unless you have a trust fund the reality is it’s nearly impossible to support yourself with sales from your art while living in a major city. However, the more solid time you have in your studio the quicker you grow and get to the meat of your own unique voice. I saved to take a year off from work to be in my studio full time. It has turned out to be the best gift I gave to myself.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
You can see my work on my Instagram feed, spongebarbier Or my website

I will be in a group show in SF in November called Yoga Studio at Gallery 60six.

And You can come visit me at my studio.

I have spent this last year devoted to my studio practice after taking a break from my paid work as a digital painter for movies. I have been prolific and inspired but now the work of organizing my images, updating my website and finding opportunities to show my work begins. I would like to find representation in LA and NY and Chicago.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Leigh Barbier

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