Sunday, November 12, 2006

Art Space Talk: Brian Burris

I recently interviewed artist Brian Burris. Mr. Burris creates abstract paintings that capture the essence of his past struggles and pain. These paintings define the emotive aspects of the artist visually. In some of these images the raw emotion is very dominant. The viewer can sense the loss that went into the paintings creation.

One can ponder his or her own life struggles while observing the art of Mr. Burris. In my opinion, the paintings serve as a reminder that the plight of living is shared by all. We are connected by our collective loss.

Q. Do you have a account?

A. "Yes. bkburris. Brian Burris--artworks."

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I began painting when I was sixteen years old: I knew then it would be an integral part of my life, a great part of what defines me. My art became commercially self-supporting in 2001, which in and of itself is a sort of milestone in an artist's evolution; when it becomes more than a divertissement."

Q. How has creating art shaped you professionally and personally?

A. "My art has become more personally expressive. In '99, six of my co-workers died in the Worcester warehouse fire (Worcester Mass.). A year later, my father died; a co-worker who was also a friend died, another co-worker died, and I worked separately a car accident with teen-age fatalities and a shooting in which the victim had twelve gunshot wounds, including one through-and-through the neck, clipping the jugular. Though not as a therapeutic tool (at least not consciously), I returned to painting after a seven-year hiatus."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "My themes are universally relevant: loss/abandonment; failure to save(oneself, loved ones from pain);betrayal (by loved ones, parents, God); disassociation; repression; consciousness and the subconscious."

Q. What are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?

A. "I had one friend whose father was (and still is) an artist, and that friend steered me into painting. And another friend with whom I've been collaborating for close to twenty years who kept me painting sporadically during my hiatus and still adds an element of departure from my own style and themes."

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Are your past experiences reflected in the work you do today? If so, how?

A. "In my youth I committed to the artist's lifestyle: very bohemian. I became disillusioned with the starving-artist lifestyle, a pseudo post-hippie morass (except for the fact that my fugue was post-eighties). I broke from the organic creative zen spirit--aleatory (i.e. governed by chance) lifestyle and joined the US Army Reserves (whose basic brainwashing, for me anyway, I found to be the antithesis of creative impulse--not that brainwashing is a bad thing); from there I worked for the Sheriff's Dept, finally finding my niche in a major metropolitan fire department where we do emergency medical response in addition to fire calls. I still have no desire to work to simply take my place in the for profit cog: if it's not life or death it is not significant."

Q. How long have you been a working artist?

A. "Twenty-two years. 1984 to 2006. I had a bit of a hiatus (as I mentioned above) in which I focused on corporeal things, though I still produced and collaborated on pieces during that time, these efforts number less than half-a-dozen."
Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "They seem to feel my artwork captures a message they themselves feel, both emotionally and metaphysically. So I would have to say my collectors feel a connection with the themes of disassociation and loss, as well a greater metaphysical connection."
Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "'In the Year of the Flood'. It's a classic example of my particular division field paintings, representative of the division of consciousness and the greater, dominant subconscious. The fields tend to deviate from the classic extreme and mean ratio, which is symbolic of the disintegration of conscious and subconscious compartmentalization. The whole work is usually unified by a distressed patina, again symbolic of psychic dissolution. On this particular piece there is a vertical 'slash' (also seen in 'no pleasures remain, veil of tears--not shown--etc), which represents repression of the subconscious while at the same time the in-road into consciousness that effort of repression makes."

Q. What is your artistic process?

A. "I refer to my style as 'process abstracts'. A fusion and evolution from abstract expressionism in the action school style segued into a process or layer painting execution with more emphasis on minimalism and field paintings."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I fell into acrylics: they were what was available, and after twenty-plus years of using them and pushing past their characteristics to non-conventional finishes. I also employ various distressing techniques, both mechanical and chemical (enzymes, etc.) that react specifically with acrylic. Plus the drying times and acrylic's behavior under high viscosity work best with my particular style and methods."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how has it helped your art career?

A. "I have a degree--in Liberal Arts. I don't plan to attend art school and enjoy my status as 'self-taught'. The more you understand the world, the better you can express it in any venue."

Q. Where can we see more of your art?

A. "I show in and around the Worcester area with: ARTSWorcester and the Worcester Artists Group (WAG). I am curently showing at the Naked Art Gallery in Northampton Mass, have half-a-dozen pieces going into a new gallery space at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and am contributing two pieces to an installation at Unum Provident in Worcester as well. And of course on the net. If you enter my name into a search engine it should pop up half-a-dozen or so sites which reference my work, the most notable of which being the Pascarelli Gallery at"

Q. Are you represented by a gallery?

A. "I was represented by the Gallery at Harlow Street, aka The Sprinkler Factory, in Worcester Mass up until this past September, when the building owner usurped the gallery operation from its proprietor for ten years, at which point myself and ninety percent of the other artists in this enclave of artist's studios decided to find our retreats elsewhere. Too bad: it was a fantastic venue. I am now represented solely by ARTSWorcester."

Q. Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

A. "The aforementioned WPI Arts & Humanities Gallery, Dec '06; Unum Provident collaborative show, Dec '06. Currently showing at the Naked Art Gallery, Northampton, through Dec 8, 2006, as well as currently showing in the Worcester Artists Group's Second Annual Juried show."

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in?

A. "The Gallery at Harlow Street, The Well, the Abattoir, The Worcester Artists Group, the Naked Art Gallery."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "At its least: Modern pop art with overt blatant and unsubtle message, art still seeks to shock les enfants, a parade of ridiculousness. At its best: subtleties that reflect the undercurrents of life itself, emotion rendered in amazing light.

I particularly enjoy the recent onslaught of stills-as-found art: stills from film--a recognition of film as art. Impressed with the Internet community of artists coming together in the different net forums (myartspace, myspace, others)."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Hmn. There are two ways to go about 'emerging'. One: go to a premier fine arts school, get pedigreed, and move to New York. Find a gallery and become part of its 'stable'. Find an obtrusive symbol of a societal quirk and render it in manifold variation. Sex and violence, commercialism and superficial sense of self, anger and repression.. Remember that your buying public is not only buying your work but the entire cult of you as an artist, your work and well as your tortured psyche, and the experience of the reception, the taste of the art world and the ambiance of the art scene. And remember: wine sells art.
Or: Find yourself a job that will support you so that your happiness doesn't hinge on selling your work, in which case you will never have to pander to popular opinion in order to perpetuate your art, or eat for that matter. This job will free you up to create. Keep in touch with the art world through trade journals and your local library. Maybe take an art history course. When you're producing, don't settle for half-good. Don't call a painting complete to preserve a portion which works in a painting which doesn't work overall. Invest in Gesso. When you have pieces you feel are ready to show, join an artist's co-op (or as many as you can). Show in their all-artists' shows. In the meantime, go to other artists' shows, become a contributing part of your local art scene. If the public is receptive to your work, other opportunities will present themselves. Network as much as your conscience will allow, and pray somebody takes up representing your work so you can just get back to painting and stop feeling like you're trying to sell yourself."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "No, my work hasn't been censored. If it were, I would attempt to find a piece that was more 'venue-appropriate'. Perhaps I will push that envelope soon since I've begun a series of nudes."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "I suppose the point of greatest success is also the most trying point, at which you can get carried away with all the positive attention and the ever-flowing demands of the social scene (which, as mentioned above, is key to getting your work out there). The creative process itself devours you: so recognizing that nadir, that perihelion, is vital towards your ability to live in the real world, as well as to still be able to create. That is the most difficult balance."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Because it says what you can't say, and it doesn't matter if anyone listens."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "My art scene is the Worcester area (Massachusetts), which has had an underground art scene for twenty years but which is just within the last two years really taking off with a shift in the demographic. I'm putting my work out west of here as well to Northampton Mass, aka 'Noho' because of its arts/lifestyle arts community and Amherst/Umass college demographic."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "We are mutually self-supporting: in our local art scenes and on the Internet. Get in touch with the other artists in your local scene and via the web, maintain these contacts, network. Showing your work is validation, otherwise your just playing with yourself in the basement. But remember it's the art itself that is the reward."

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with artist Brian Burris. Feel free to critique or discuss his work. Remember to do a search on the main site for bkburris.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


John Pascarelli said...

A smart, candid, informative conversation. Good reading.

Anonymous said...

A smart, candid, informative conversation. Good reading.

Anonymous said...

My name is Brian Burris!!!

AaronAgosto said...

Thanks for the uplifting comments on becoming an artist. I feel content after reading this interview.