A interview with artist Brett Flanigan – written by Lauren Napolitano
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Artist Lauren Napolitano of the Oakland/San Francisco art scene recently interviewed artist Brett Flanigan. The artist has traveled the country, creating multicolored works that are full of color and symbolism.
West Coast curator Terry Addison recently helped bring the artist to the Old Crow Tattoo Gallery, which has been primarily responsible for highlighting artists from Northern California’s East Bay. “Brett Flanigan’s work reflects on the state of our world today. He depicts a world where intrinsic shapes are incised by sharp lines, similar to the way a modern metropolis has the propensity to dissect and extirpate the nature surrounding it. In a time when globalization and a rapid spread of technology and information have led to homogenization, Flanigan imagines a world rewilded, in which feral beings are free to create their own unique cultures and traditions.” Stated Addison. ”The intent of the work is not to condemn modernity, but rather to embolden the viewer to consider the state of the present as they look towards the future.”
Lauren Napolitano: Lets get a little backstory on you, for readers who aren’t quite familiar with your work yet. Can you tell us a little bit about the beginning of your creative endeavors? What kind of environment did you grow up in? You are completely self-taught…yes?
Brett Flanigan: I was born in Montana at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, but I spent the later part of my childhood in California skateboarding and playing in punk and hardcore bands. Art and creativity are very much a part of both of these things, although I never really thought of it that way at the time. I think being active in those subcultures definitely opened the door me to start making my own art though. And yea, I never took art classes or anything, I do learn a lot from my friends though.
Lauren Napolitano: What is your method of transportation these days?
Brett Flanigan: Bike, train, walk, skateboard, car. All of the above. I’ve got a road trip, a bike trip, and a train trip planed out within the next few months. I’ve been lucky/stupid enough to have a car again for the past year or so, which has been a blessing at times, but also a curse. Nothing beats the feeling of traveling by the power of your own body though. I really love to travel by bicycle when I have the opportunity. I was reading recently that in some cultures traveling too quickly is frowned upon since it can lead to “soul lag”, where the body moves and the soul doesn’t have time to catch up. I think that is a pretty smart philosophy.
Lauren Napolitano: Skateboarding, punk rock, and train riding are all heavily steeped in tradition and also seem to be gateways to one another. How have these traditions affected you?
Brett Flanigan: I don’t know if they are necessarily gateways to one other, or if they just attract people with similar philosophies. Each of these things has a do-it-yourself, have fun, and do things on your own terms, ethic at its core. I think that always holding on to that mentality is the most important thing I have taken away from it all.
Lauren Napolitano: I admire the way you seem to balance the amount of works you produce within, as well as outside of the gallery space. Is there one you prefer?
Brett Flanigan: I like to do both equally, but there is sort of a time and place for each. When I’m home and I have access to a studio space the indoor work allows me to be more meticulous and more experimental in trying out new styles and themes. The outdoor work is more raw and direct, the act of doing it can be sort of an energy outlet. Balancing both is important, nothing beats the feeling of finishing an intricate indoor piece, then going out and releasing all of that energy by doing some outdoor work.
Lauren Napolitano: Your most recent installation with the Tweens crew at Old Crow is awesome, and borderline “fantastical”. Reminds me of the childhood fort I wish I had…tucked away above everyone else…what inspired this?
Brett Flanigan: It sort of started as this idea that I wanted to have artwork in the show that had an experience attached to it aside from just the simple act of looking at it. As we started to look more critically at the space we realized that there was this big, beautiful enclave around the skylight that was always sort of overlooked, and that would be perfect for this idea of climbing up out of the gallery and into this alternate viewing space lit by candles and surrounded by textiles.
Lauren Napolitano: The ladder leading up to it made me really nervous! How many people actually made it up to the top?
Brett Flanigan: I think I saw maybe 20-25 people go up there at the opening? It’s funny because the original idea was to hang the piece much higher up inside of the actual skylight. The first time I climbed up there I realized how steep it was and how sketchy it felt, and that there was no way anyone was going to climb up that high, so we lowered the piece a bit to where it wasn’t quite so scary. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as what kind of response the installation would get. I sort of decided that people would either love it or be totally annoyed by it.
Lauren Napolitano: Last year was the second year you participated in Living Walls, Atlanta. Seems like a week long street art summer camp. What was your experience there?
Brett Flanigan: Atlanta was a really great experience both years. Atlanta has an amazing community of artists, many of whom have become some of my very close friends over the past two years. There is so much support for the project from the community out there and Monica Campana has really put her heart and soul into organizing it, which totally shows in how successful it has been. It definitely has the summer camp vibe which is another reason why going out there the past few years has been so much fun. I’d love to go back again this year, but word on the street is that the conference is going to focus on female artists in 2012.
Lauren Napolitano: Any ladies you’re hoping to see make the list?
Brett Flanigan: It would great to see ladies like Mymo, Maya Hayuk, Fefe Talavera, White Cocoa, Swoon, or Solovei on the list.
Lauren Napolitano: Whose work is getting you excited these days?
Brett Flanigan: Rimon Guimarães, Christopher Derek Bruno, Drew Tyndell, 500m, Shrine, Eric Shaw, Read More, Remed, Monica Canilao, Ever, Kenor, etc.
Lauren Napolitano: Which is more important? The memory or the experience?
Brett Flanigan: The experience. I think if you strive to be fully present during an experience you will gain the most from it. The memories will follow naturally, whether or not documentation is present. I think it is so counter-intuitive to see tourists trying to experience a new place while looking through a video camera all day. Watching something through a tiny screen rather than viewing it in the real world. That’s not to say that I am against documentation, but I think that documentation should come secondary to being present in the experience. I feel like I probably miss a lot of good photos because of this theory, but I’m alright with that. They are all still in my head.
- written by Lauren Napolitano for Warholian
For more on Brett, visit his website here: www.BrettFlanigan.com