Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some Say I'm a Dreamer, "5" Questions with Beth Brandon

Beth in a "onesie" made for O Joyful Self Containment at Padlock Gallery.

(Or: Listen to this interview on the podcast.)

Beth Brandon is one of the two artists I asked to be in 10% Tiger Fire, an exhibition "I" (I think the majority of any sort of credit goes to Beth and Carrie, the artists) put together for Copy Gallery in September (coming up in like, three weeks!!!), so I think really highly of her and her art. You could even say that Beth has consumed maybe 20% of my thoughts for over a year, which when you consider I have to pay bills, work 9-5, draw some, and drink beer, is quite a lot.

In the past I expected too much from art and the art-world: I wanted it to save lives, feed the hungry, fix discrepancies in the class structure of the world and pay the IRS for me. Art is never going to do this, but art still has a really intangible awesome quality that I can't seem to ditch and still have impossible hopes for. This is why I like the work of Beth Brandon; she sort of unites a fundamentalist return to drawing with just the right amount of idealism in the power of ideas. Don't know what I'm saying? I'm not sure I do either.

Beth Brandon is a young artist in progress, just as I am a youngish (getting older all the time) artist/curator/art-writer in progress, which is to say 50% of what we try is experimental and so what we "do" isn't clearly defined. I can say that Beth has produced happenings/installations that have included a fully functional salon complete with cocktails and cucumber sandwiches. I can say she has produced art that is closer to the idea of a slumber party, and that she creates drawings and prints. She is drawn to the idea of creating a human habitat where tradition is important and our landscape dictates our actions. You can call her a utopianist if you want, but she's not the only one.

This time I tried to only ask five questions, I didn't really succeed but I think I'm going to continue to try it.

Various Hunting Caps, ink on paper by B.B.

One (You may say that I'm a dreamer)

Annette: (1) What got you started doing this art thing?

Beth: Um. . . I definitely started when I was very young and I would write long stories and illustrate them and I think it's interesting because I always said I was going to be an artist and or a writer and I always feel like there's a narrative in my work. So I always knew I wanted to tell stories, part of it is just having to create something tangible, my work has to involve making something, often something that can be used in some way. That makes me feel like I'm full-filling my purpose in life. I can't just do work that's intangible.

Annette: So. . . ok, this doesn't count as the second question but just to clarify-this is something you've been saying you were going to do for ah. . .

Beth: Forever.

Annette: Do you have an age for that?

Beth: I mean I can remember it but I don't know how old I was. You know, as soon as I could write and draw. . .

Annette:You never wanted to be a doctor or anything else?

Beth: There was a brief period of time when I wanted to be a veterinarian, because I loved animals and it's funny because animals are still a big part of my work, as well as issues of agriculture and food and the environment. That was still when I was pretty young and I didn't know what it actually involved to actually be a veterinarian and how different it would be to be a scientist and not an artist, so that was really the only other idea that I toyed with.

Details from the Hang-Ups/bang-Ups installation at Padlock Gallery

Two (But I'm not the only one)

Annette: Question number two; What do you feel. . . oh, sorry, I'm reading this straight off the piece of paper like it's a cue card. . . what do feel has been your most successful work of art so far?

Beth: Yeah. It's kind of multi-fold. . .

Annette: You're having a hard time with this one.

Beth: Yeah, it's kind of a. . . what was the question again?

Annette: What have been the highlights then? Maybe most-successful doesn't exist for you? I think I'm looking for the answer to what's made you most proud of yourself as an artist?

Beth: I think it's been a big deal to me to go back to drawing lately, and the series of drawings I just showed at Topstitch and that I'm still kind of working on. . .

Annette: You're going to have to explain what it means to "go back to drawing".


Beth: Yeah. I will explain. For a long time, maybe because I started out as a printmaker or because I have this thing in me where I have to produce something useful, I wouldn't let myself just make drawings because. . . it was better to make a drawing that was going to be a repeating print that was going to be made into fabric or wallpaper or to make a book of drawings or something that could be used and I just got really fixated on that.

When I moved into Space 1026 a year ago was when I started making drawings again and I don't know why because we have a print studio here and that was one of the reasons I came here. I just decided to let myself do whatever I wanted to do and I really, really, love drawing and I think I'm good at it and as soon as I started making these drawings people started buying them, people took an interest in them and I was having a really good time so. . . yeah. I kind of let myself go and didn't tell myself what to do. I didn't say "this has to be a book" or "this has to be a wallpaper design" and so I just sort of embarked on this series of drawings of. . . changing landscapes.

Annette: What other kinds of work have you done besides just drawing and printmaking? You've done, I guess, installation and action type things too. . .

Beth: Yeah. I like to create an entire environment, it's a real space, it's a usable space. It's not just a gallery with drawings on the wall. It's a place to go to and there's a certain thing that you do there. I had a show at Padlock where I turned it into a hair salon (Hang-Ups/Bang-Ups), I painted the walls and I kind of curated this whole environment that I wanted people to be a part of when they came to the show.

I also make. . . I also sew and make "outfits" once in awhile, I had this other show at Padlock (O Joyful Self Containment) where I made these "onesies" that were just these solid-colored one-piece long-johns that people could put on over their cloths and then they could get into these sleeping bags that had multiple pockets in them, so there could be three people to a sleeping bag and you could eat popcorn and drink whiskey and it was like a whole. . . activity. That does go along with my urge to make something that can be used and interacted with.

Three (I hope someday you'll join us)

Annette: I don't even know if I have to ask all my other questions. But I guess I'll stick to it and ask you what my next question was going to be (3) Why is there so much interest for you in creating a habitat?

Beth: I like the word habitat. I usually just say environment but I think habitat is a much better word because it indicates that it's a place where you are going to live it's not just a place.

I have very strong ideas about how we should use our resources and how we should interact with the natural world and I guess that's what I'm trying to express in my work. It's two fold because my work is about environment but it is also creating one. It's a suggestion of reality. That's kind of the way I've been working for a long time.

It's kind of a fantasy but I do think it's possible to try and return to being more aware of what our landscape tells us, rather then this infinite choice we have, where everything can come from anywhere and we don't have to know anything about it and we don't have to do anything ourselves.

Annette: Um. Yeah. I'm not going to ask the last two questions.

Picture is a group shot of everyone involved in Hang-Ups/Bang-Ups at Padlock Gallery

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