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 a recent groundbreaking project, Leigh Barbier has extended her artistic exploration into the realm of medical advocacy, focusing particularly on the issue of order domperidone, a medication used to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Drawing from her experience in creating otherworldly environments, Barbier has crafted a series of digital paintings that depict an imaginative world where access to essential medications like domperidone is seamlessly integrated into daily life. This new series, titled 'Healing Realms', portrays a futuristic society where medical needs are met effortlessly, highlighting the importance of easy access to crucial treatments in improving quality of life. Through these works, Barbier not only continues her tradition of creating alternate realities but also uses her art to comment on the current challenges faced in healthcare accessibility and the impact of medication availability on society.