If we could paint our inner realities, what would they look like? Taking inspiration from surrealism and mass media, Defective Barbie creates drippy watercolor paintings that feel like fragments of a strange dream. Her portraits capture eerie figures, ones that are caught between representational and abstract. Paint drips take over the canvas, making each face seem impermanent.
The Drip Effect, her current solo show on view at SugarMynt Gallery in Pasadena, California, shows a range of her work, from portraits to abstraction. No matter the subject, each piece is the product of “chaotic free flowing paint” and the movement that the medium takes on.
Even while they might lure the viewer in with their pops of color and strange movement, a closer look might reveal something unsettling. The portraits seem to be unraveling even while they reveal themselves. Choosing watercolor as her medium, and letting it largely take over the composition through drips, Defective Barbie creates visually enticing pieces that discuss complicated issues like identity and mental health.
“Honesty is an important part of my art, I want it to be raw, visceral, and inspiring,” Defective Barbie, a.k.a., Christina Leta, writes in an email to The Creators Project. “I think it’s important to honor both the beauty and the ugliness life entails because one couldn’t exist without the other, so I couldn't imagine capturing the essence of a person in a portrait without elements that are both unnerving & appealing.”
Her work comes from a very personal standpoint; making each piece helps her untangle her own thoughts.
“Having experienced depression myself, I’ve always dealt with it through my art,” writes Leta. “I believe there is a stigma associated with depression that I wanted to confront. In my journey as an artist, the most important realization I’ve had was finding the beauty and strength from having suffered pain and debilitation.”
Her love of watercolors started with a postcard that a friend received in the email. Leta loved it and wanted to make work that looked just as “expressive, wild and captivating.”
Beyond the aesthetic exploration in her pieces, Leta hopes that visitors share in her sense of catharsis. The pieces are a means to start a conversation, or at least a reassurance that visitors not the only ones caught in battles that can oftentimes feel isolating. In each piece, the artist showcases a little part of that struggle to open up the dialogue about mental health even further.
“It’s unnerving to exhibit work that’s so revealing of my personal experience, but I’m not alone with my emotions and the most interesting part is hearing what others see of themselves reflected in each painting,” writes Leta. Her work fully embraces these “uncomfortable emotions,” the inner dialogues that many experience but often hesitate to talk about out loud. In letting the drips take control, Leta reassures viewers that there’s power in embracing the messiness of the human mind.