We had the good fortune of connecting with Brandon Barr and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brandon, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Early in my artistic practice, I was pulling all-nighters, creating really intense installations that were often out of my financial means, and ignoring a lot of other important aspects in my life. This time was necessary in that I grew exponentially, but during that process I also neglected my physical and mental well-being. It also did not aid in the consistency and longevity in my practice. I knew I had to begin approaching studio from a more holistic perspective. I heard someone use the common saying “its a marathon, not a race” in regards to art and that made a lot of sense to me. So, even though I will still pull an all-nighter every now and then, my daily or weekly approach to artmaking takes into account the demands of trying to make art in 2020.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I arrived to this point in my professional practice by always being aware and analyzing what I am doing. Art is always first, but I also know that in order for that to be the case then I have to take everything else into account. Why is this artwork I am creating important to myself and relevant to anybody else? Is this something that I want to be remembered by? Is this body of work something I can realistically keep doing? Is it financially viable to do? These are questions that are not brought up enough, but I think is one that makes or breaks an artist. Perhaps by just constantly asking myself the above questions I was able to integrate art into my life as opposed to integrating my life into art. The latter I think results in a burned out sprint while the other I think is a steady marathon where I’m not gasping for air after each small hill. I think that is how I arrived to my work “Flash Paintings”. It is a series that I enjoy creating and can continue to create for however long that may be. I was spending a lot of time digesting imagery, content and sometimes nonsense from social media platforms everyday so I just started creating work from this experience, which to me felt more honest. It made sense to make art from this activity I was doing a lot and it allowed me to see this endless scrolling in a new almost objective point of view. It has an interactive element to it too that allows viewers to photograph the work with their camera flash which reveals the text on the surface. The background imagery is a combination of digital painting and blurred found photos that becomes its own abstract image. Text is something that I have always been drawn to in my work, but it was never the main focal point until now. It became this poetic gesture I could insert into an artwork that I think really cuts through a lot of bs and gets straight to the point. I also pull the text from various found social media captions online that often have this ridiculous assertion behind them because its placed next to a selfie of someone posing on a beach or something. I started to pull apart these captions to try and give it a new meaning. This also comments on the digital or social platform they are on. There are identities that hide beneath the surface when we present ourselves online. That has a lot to do with how these platforms are structured and almost force you to present yourself in a certain way. I like to think this work breaks that down and gives a new experience with that content and perhaps gives some of that control back to the viewer.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The options are plentiful, that’s for sure, but I think I would take them to some of the galleries closer to downtown like Bendix building where places like Durden and Ray, Monte Vista Projects and TSA are located. Then, swing by a cafe in Little Tokyo area where my studio is also located and hangout on the roof…it’s a bit of secret spot, but has a nice view of the downtown skyline.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would say first and foremost is my wife Anna Vining. She has supported me all over the country and her belief has never waned. My parents Carol and Guy who helped me get on the path to being an artist. My family and late Grandma Evelyn who was an amazing person and self-taught artist. All of the mentors and teachers I’ve had throughout my career.