“Don’t be afraid to be dumb,” states Enlightenment Barbie’s website. Her gloriously sassy pseudonym mocks the delusion that brains and beauty don’t vibe well together. In this case, the brains AND beauty behind Enlightenment Barbie belong to a strong, bohemian blonde artist named Gillian Keller.
Keller breaks the mold by defying and certainly not exemplifying that silly aforementioned presumption by laughing in the face of nonbelievers, spreading gorgeousness and light with every manual click of her camera and application of UV resistant resin, creating a luscious shine on an already glistening masterpiece.
Flowers, glitter, gold, rhinestones, magazine clippings and aluminum foil are some of her forever favorite things, but nothing will top her love for San Francisco, where she was born and currently resides in the Mission District. Although she’s technically a San Francisco native, Keller was also raised in Washington and Montana, and after attending the University of Idaho to study painting and mixed media sculpture, she ultimately flocked back to The Bay Area, which suits her well.
Her friends pose as her muses, but once she snaps their photo, she is said to have suspended them in time eternally as ethereal beings who are mysterious yet deserving of devotion and praise. Acid rock paintings (especially the likes of Jimi Hendrix) and 60s guru culture from Keller’s childhood trips to Mexico provided an appreciation for religions and shrines of any kind. This deep and perpetual gratitude led her to infuse those inspirations with modern feminine subjects, ultimately telling a “soul story” of divine worship with a psychedelic albeit stunning focus.
Keller is a one woman powerhouse, styling the shoots and picking the locations for each goddess before editing the photos and creating digital mockups of large scale collages. She orders prints of her photographs and Photoshops those layers, cuts them out and voila! They are ready to be laid out for pasting.
Most people have a preference for the music they listen to while they work, and some simply enjoy silence, but this visual artist listens to documentaries on YouTube about cults, ghosts, and the expansion of the universe to find her groove. Music is still undeniably important to her though; she links out to an entire page of jams that she swears, “You can’t not listen to this shit”.
A recent Instagram post of hers (her account is a must-follow) depicts her exhaustion at the end of the work day, but it doesn’t catch up with her until she’s finally at home. In her studio, she’s high on her own adrenaline, a willful slave to her craft caught up in the moment and utterly in love with what she does.
If she isn’t in her temple of a studio, she’s indulging in pie and pasta while rocking 6-inch high heels because the height “brings her closer to God”. Skulls and tarot are additional vices, allowing her to soak up more fine fuel to keep her up and running eternally, just like the characters in her perfectly color-saturated pieces.