Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Artist Interview: Brooke Weston

You primarily work with taxidermy, what draws you to this medium?

I have always loved taxidermy, I grew up with a lot in my house because my dad was a hunter.  I think more so though I always associated it with a staple in fancy homes and castles.  Its so frivolous and fancy but really kinda morbid.  I have also always collected bones, prosthetics, petrified animals, things like that.  Taxidermy has gotten really popular, I think stemming from sarcasm or kitchiness.  I think some times people like my artwork because it is trendy.  That bums me out, but maybe I am trendier than I want to admit!  People will be over it I suppose when being pseudo white trash goes out of style.

Do you have an interest in taxidermy itself or is that just a starting point? How important is that element?

I am not interested in doing the taxidermy myself.  I don't have the patience.  But I never get sick of using it as the main base of my sculptures.  However, I enjoy working with other objects too:  bones, antiques.....i have been wanting to do a series of dioramas inside fake food and put them on pedestals.  I just love to imagine small worlds in objects, I think that is the most essential part for me.

In a sense you are taking an existing object and turning it into something completely different. Is that idea of transformation important?

I have never looked at it that way.  I do like the cliche idea of taking ordinary crap and turning it into something beautiful.  Appreciating beauty in everything.

Tell me a little about your process. How do you choose an animal to start with? Is it a challenge to find the right materials?

Well, it is mostly cost that effects my animal hunting.  I am always looking for reasonable ways to find decent taxidermy.  I really believe art for me is a process of showing up for life, finding weird shit and putting it together.  When I am checked out not paying attention I lose out on the process. I don't plan ahead very much at all.  I just end up with this or that and it starts to come together.  I find there is a weird synchronicity where I will end up with a whole bunch of one thing and it starts to become an art piece.

Do you feel like you are interacting or relating something to people though your work and ideas?

Man that would be cool.  I am honestly having just so much fun when i make art, its child's play.  No heavy statement at least in my conscious.  I really hope kids like it, I always dreamed of toys and magical dioramas in everything when i was young and was so disappointed that most toys where boring.  Now I get to make all those fun ideas come true, it is probably regression.
A women told me once she thought it was great I had taken a generally male trophy and made it feminine by putting a doll house in it.  I thought shit I got to use that, that is some smart shit.

A lot of your sculptures and assemblages exist in interior settings (like the inside of a deers head). It seems very personal and guarded....does this put the viewer in a sort voyeuristic position?

At times i have felt a really uncomfortable showing work. I do feel very personal with art.  Not in a serious way, but in an embarrassing way.

How do you come up with names for finished pieces? Do they develop a personality?

Oh yeah, they get personalities for sure!  At least to me. The animal usually has an expression or a real presence I will definitely play off of.  The names are pretty silly.  I often name them after the taxidermist if it was singed.  Its usually names like Steve White, Rob Rub, Jones Denver, I love it.!
Or sometimes just little ideas I pick up along the way while making the piece.  The name of a cat at the shop I bought the mount from or the name of one of the paints I used on the piece.

Your work could be perceived in a lot of different ways....some of the settings you create seem to have a sincere charm and comfort but there is also a kind of surreal horror. Do you feel like your work is sort of conceptually open ended?

I do feel it is open ended.  I never see it as morbid really, but I see how people could.  Art for me is puking out pain and life experience the only healthy way I have been able to so I suppose a lot of darkness comes out in my artwork as well as hope and joy.  I also am really amazed when life can be mundane and boring but I can plug away at a piece every day and end up making something really imaginative. Its like a really great surprise.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hand2Mouth Theatre, "My Mind is Like an Open Meadow"

Thirty minutes have passed.  Maybe a little longer.  I glance to my right and I can see the other members of the audience.  I can see the dark shapes of their heads and think about their individual minds and lives.  I think of their perspectives and of my own.  I think of my family and of myself.  I watch their silhouettes and follow their gaze to the stage as  my attention snaps back on the dialog between sole performer Erin Leddy and the recorded voice of her grandmother, Sarah Braveman, in her piece "My Mind Is Like An Open Meadow".

Overall, this performance is purposeful and sincere, dealing with issues of aging and its surrounding emotions.  Starting at a steady pace and acting almost as a guide to living in a constructive way but slowly wobbling farther and farther between fear and acceptance.  Momentum builds until the tipping point where everything stops and Leddy, with her sharpied on varicose veins and a pair of stockings over her face, stands still for a moment in the center of the stage.  The effect is both striking and sad but somehow seems statuesque and iconic through its silliness and senility.  The image (and the show as a whole) remind me to an extent of the Eugene Delacroix painting "Victory Leading the People", showing bravery and triumph even in moments of loss and desperation. 

After a full year of living with and interviewing her grandmother in preparation, Leddy's project takes a focused and personal form that reflects back on our own lives with themes and questions that are universal and constant.  Themes of youth, old age, and life itself.  These are well worn artistic topics but Leddy finds a tightrope of untrod ground and walks it with skill and originality.  Along with Hand2Mouth Theatre and Sarah Braveman, Erin Leddy has woven together a cohesive and multidimensional performance.