We had the good fortune of connecting with Ann Brantingham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ann, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
As a woman, I was trained specifically not to be a risk taker, but instead to devote myself to an unobtainable perfection that kept me from following my own path or really any path other than that of servant or assistant. The people in my life who should have taught me courage wouldn’t allow me to choose my major or follow my passions or even read books that intrigued me. The biggest risk I ever took personally was to stop listening to them and find my own way. I did this first in college when after years of psychic pain, I finally followed my own path. The problem with that is that those voices of negativity work themselves inside a person. The people who told me not to try, not to dare, and essentially not to hope, still speak to me, and I have to shush them daily. The risk is that of loneliness. They carved me out of their lives because I chose the major that they didn’t want, that I chose to be myself. Taking that risk is clearly the most important thing that I have done in my life. Following the path they set out for me would never have brought me happiness, and my happiness was not their goal. Every other risk after that has been small by comparison. I have followed my passions to a kind of art that is often rejected by men. In a world that values large paintings, I do small drawings. When many want flashy colors, I draw in black and white. The thing about that kind of artistic daring is that it opens the artist up to truth. I can find what is real in my images, and what is true to me. If my work was done in any other way, it would be a pale imitation of someone else’s vision and completely unrealized because I do not live their truth. I live mine. Risk, especially emotional risk, is the most important thing that an artist can do because it is the only way that she can grow, and this growth happens in a number of ways. First, she grows, finding new ways to create. She also explores new media and pushes the form in ways that people have never seen before. But the most important form of growth is that she explores who she is and finds truths that are essential to her that she might have never understood or verbalized. These are the deep truths that live inside of her and come from a deep experience no one else has lived. They are a part of the human consciousness that need to be explored and explained so that others following her can understand this world from her perspective.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One of the most important lessons I learned is that when I work within a community and cooperatively, I am opening myself to the ideas and experiences of others. These turn out often to be universal so that what I find is that I am not alone in pain or in joy. I am part of a collective experience. When I work this way, I often too find that I gain meaning not only for my individual work but by the successes of others. The idea of the artist who works in isolation is terribly sad to me. I am in this community and of it, and my work benefits those who are around me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are natural and artistic aspects of the Inland Empire that many people are not aware of because of prejudice. I’d want to start and end the day at James Turrell’s Skyspace which reconceptualized the way we understand the sky. There are so many artistic treasures on the Claremont Colleges campuses, but they exist throughout the Inland Empire, from the arts colony in Pomona where people work openly every day to the Ontario Art Lofts where my husband and I have our gallery, to downtown Riverside that has dedicated itself to public and often whimsical artistic expression. I would also have them visit overlooked natural places such as Mystic Lake, which is an ephemeral lake, and the Santa Ana River. Everyone should also visit Strawberry Peak near Lake Arrowhead, which gives a view of the Inland Empire. We’d stop by the farm store at Cal Poly, Pomona for our homemade feast.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, John. There is a safety in knowing that I am loved unconditionally, so I know that if I take a risk and fail, he will still support me. It is equally important to get out of relationships that seek to suppress and control. The relationship that we have is about mutual support and love.