By: Scott Campbell
Fabricates Whimsical Mixed Media Forms
(page 1 of 2)
Secluded within four acres of woodland near Cleona is the residence of Barry Leader.
His home is a log cabin with a rustic yet aesthetic interior that betrays its humble origins.
A stone’s throw away is Leader’s studio. Its identity is obvious.
The large and well-lit structure houses the tools and materials the 65-year-old man needs to produce what he terms “contemporary folk art.”
There is a menagerie of recycled items, a copious supply of paint and brushes, hardware, adhesives, varnishes, abundant quantities of medium-density fiber board and power tools like a table and band saw.
All of it is skillfully applied to produce Leader’s colorful and whimsical creations.
“I like to re-use or recycle,” he says. “It’s fun to take something that’s served its original purpose and then use it again for something completely different.”
On a table in the studio rests several large heads, their flat surfaces and protruding facial features reminiscent of African tribal masks.
There is a menagerie of recycled items, a copious supply of paint and brushes, hardware, adhesives, varnishes, abundant quantities of medium-density fiber board and power tools like a table and band saw. All of it is skillfully applied to produce Leader’s colorful and whimsical creations.
The “hair” on one is made with old paint-mixing sticks, affixed vertically across the top of the form. The base of another is covered with pieces from cut-up aluminum beer cans that the artist flattened and embossed.
The features on the faces are purposely distorted.
“I have to hold myself back in order to get that primitive style,” Leader confesses. “But I like the look of them. They make me smile,” he muses. “I hope other people do, too.”
Leader has been making people smile at his art for years. And giving many pleasure in owning it.
But his journey as a fine artist has not been a conventional one.
“Although I took art in high school and was recognized for my talent, I didn’t go to college,” he says. “After high school, I went into the Army and to Vietnam. When I came home, I answered an ad in the paper for a department store display position.
Eventually I worked for Gimbels, Macy’s and others, responsible for all the visual displays throughout the stores.”
In time, Leader developed an interest in wood carving, which led him to start a business devoted to that end.