Enlightenment Barbie (Gillian Keller)
The goddesses and gurus I depict are members of my own heavenly host of religious icons. Flanked by flowers, glitter, and gold, generous praise is invited for these mysterious women. My subjects start as models and muses. Then, through my photography, they become frozen in a chance glance—a raw moment of ecstasy. They transform into an expression of divinity that is at once both intensely personal and universal—into an object worthy of devotion.
My images are essentially religious icons of my own creation. They're inspired by my spiritual experience as well as the traditions that made up my unusual journey - Medieval Christian iconography, Eastern religious shrines, and 60’s Guru culture collide with the modern woman in my color-drenched images.
A few years back I had what you could call an ‘Enlightenment’ experience while I was sitting (substance free) at brunch - I was moved to create my own visual religion based on that experience. Thus were born the Goddesses and Gurus of my own creation, each with their own unique name, representing a humorous, sometimes ironic, and always meaningful aspect of the new understanding that I had been suddenly struck with.
The works are based in my photography. I photograph each woman myself, then compose a photoshop mockup where I play with color, composition, and layering to create something that describes a unique flavor of my exceedingly fun spiritual experience. Once my rough mockup is completed, I order archival photo prints of each layer, hand cut out each element, and lay these paper bits onto panel. I also use paint, found paper, foil, rhinestones, studs and duct tape to embellish and finish my mixed material collages. They are finished with resin for a unifying glossy finish.
"Enlightenment Barbie" is a nod to the “myth” that beauty and brains cannot coexist—and yet, the description of the quintessential Goddess—powerful, all-knowing, and strikingly beautiful in appearance and intelligence.
I’ve only been making work in this style for about 1.5 years. I’ve been doing it full-time in my SF studio for about a year, and showing for less than 1 year. I’ve been selling really well, and got to travel to LA for the stARTup Art Fair this January, which was a big success for me. I’m up-and-coming in the truest sense - I’m a brand new, very prolific artist, dedicated to continuing to make this imagery as long as I am physically and mentally capable. I am also relatively unknown - I have 825 lovely Instagram fans, a mailing list of 130 people, and under 25 people who have purchased my work (both large and small).
Before this? I went to school and got my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at good 'ol University of Idaho where I studied painting and mixed media installation art .. then immediately moved to San Francisco in 2010 to pursue a more interesting life! Not able to afford studio space, I messed around with my camera for several years while working odd-jobs and trying to keep afloat. I had this spiritual experience out of the blue, and began thinking about photography and my artwork in a completely different way, stylistically and practically. Then (lucky me) married a fabulous man who urged me to make my images full-time. It's been a wild ride.