Leigh Barbier is a digital painter, creating other worlds for the special effects movie industry at Industrial Light and Magic. She has worked on such films as Star Wars, Episode one and two and more recently on Rango. Freelancing between gigs at ILM, she’s worked with San Francisco’s art/music legends The Residents, creating illustrations, sculpture, and masks for their stage performances. Barbier has also built dioramas for the California Academy of Sciences, and joined the all-girl team to make a giant baseball mitt for the Giants’ ballpark.
With such a resumé of alternate world-building, it’s no surprise that her own artwork creates a rich landscape called ‘Mushroomville’. Inspired by religious art, muralists of the Mexican Revolution, and lingering 60's Disney imagery, Barbier's enchanting yet sinister "Mushroomville" is an all-female community in a physically spare yet emotionally rich countryside, dotted with occasional log cabins, brick buildings, or hollowed trees for shelter. Each woman enters Mushroomville through her own personal portal, tailored to meet her psychological needs for escape or transformation. Their Mushroom is a metaphor for life’s duplicitous nature, symbolizing the core of their culture, and provides Barbier with a world in which to transform her own or the viewer’s emotions into physical form.
Leigh's work holds intense psychological subterfuge, as found in the work of Frida Kahlo or de Chirico, with figurative depictions reminiscent of Diego Rivera or Thomas Hart Benton. Her sculptural works combine a wise woman’s all-seeing eye, raw emotional metaphors, and the whimsy of Niki de Saint Phalle, Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith.
In "Biospheres" Barbier's one woman exhibit creates an environment in which living organisms exist. An environment capable of supporting life, the way humans create worlds within their imaginations...worlds capable of creating organisms of fictional narratives and emotional truth, born out of observation and memory.
SF Gate/Chronicle article and interview: