We had the good fortune of connecting with Bryan Zanisnik and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bryan, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
I’m not sure that being an artist has an end goal. I often find it freeing to think of an art practice as more akin to that of a scientist. A scientist spends their days experimenting and exploring, and amidst the missteps and failures there are occasional breakthroughs. An art practice should be the same. We experiment and we explore, but it is the process that matters, not the end result. That being said, I see certain achievements ideal by the end of one’s career. Namely a surrounding community and discourse, an established archive of one’s work, and a studio space that is comfortable and accessible. I’m currently building out a studio in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City, and I imagine that landscape will nurture me far into my career.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Right now I am most excited about a new body of work using paint, canvas and collage. For years, I produced works where I built installations in my studio, placed lighting on them, and then photographed them. The works were sculptural, but also flattened, pictorial space. I was interested in this relationship between photography and sculpture, thinking about an object moving from three-dimensions into two. I am now curious if I can capture the same sculptural sensibility without using photography, but instead using paint, canvas and collage. Tackling painting can be overwhelming because it’s the art medium with the longest and most distinct history. When I would go to parties and tell people that I am an artist, people would always immediately respond: “What do you paint?”. I would have to correct them and say I don’t make paintings, I make sculptures and photographs. Even with this new body of painterly work, I would answer the exact same way at a party today (if there were still parties). I do not identify with painting and its sacred history. Instead I think of paint as simply another material, just like I have previously worked with materials such as wood, drywall, and cement.
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.
If a friend visited I would take them to the Catskills, a mountainous region two-hours north of New York City. For food and drinks Phoenicia Diner and West Kill Brewery cannot be missed. Culturally there are lots of art centers and galleries opening, many offering a sense of community and openness that has been missing from NYC the past few years. Prattsville Art Center in Prattsville, NY is one of my favorites. Ultimately one comes to the Catskills for its unbelievable nature and hiking trails. I love the Devil’s Path in West Kill, NY with its monumental glacial boulders. In summer and fall my activity of choice is foraging for wild mushrooms. Some of my favorite wild mushrooms include chanterelles, lion’s mane and black trumpets. With the area’s high elevation, winter is when things really get interesting. If a friend visited then I would hand him an ax and ask for help chopping firewood. By the following winter I am hoping to own a snowmobile, and if friends do not fear for their life, they are welcome to jump aboard.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My career would not be possible without the support and involvement of my grandmother. When I was thirteen-years-old I filmed over eight hours of war movies with my grandmother. Holding my father’s video camera in front of her, she crawled on the floor in camouflage outfits, shot toy guns at imaginary enemies, and danced in celebratory victory. I rediscovered these video years later in graduate school, and used the raw footage as my first major body of work. This work was part childhood-production and part adult-artist revitalization. Since that time I have collaborated with many people, but this first collaboration is definitely the most significant.