In the Studio: Jillian Marie Browning

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1. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today?

I was born in Ocala, Florida and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Photography from the University of Central Florida in 2012 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from Florida State University in 2015. Some of my favorite things are puppies, comic books, the color pink, and radical feminism. I currently work for The School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida.

2. Please describe your work

Through the use of video performance, multi-media sculpture, photographic imagery, and spatially engaging installations, I explore the concept of feminine identity through the lens of the contemporary black experience. My work often deals with the intersection of feminism and race, and how the two are constructed through the investigation of social, familial, and gender roles. Additionally, my work considers the way in which personal identity is assembled through one’s body image and racial identity.

3. What does being an “interdisciplinary artist” mean to you and your practice?

Interdisciplinary to me just means not letting a medium dictate how I make my work. I think it’s very important to let the work tell me how it wants to be presented. I pull a lot of influence from several different kinds of art and I just think its more important to focus on what is the best medium to get the message across instead of trying to fit the message into one type of medium. My background is in photography, so a lot of my work usually uses that as a jumping off point but hardly ever stays there. I like to think of myself as a “lens based artist” but I don’t know, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue as well as interdisciplinary.

4. What is your creative process like?

My process is all over the place. My work is pretty politically driven, so much of the time I’m pulling from current events and everyday experiences. I write notes down in my phone of potential ideas or words or song lyrics that spark something. I am not the kind of artist that sits down and goes “I am going to make art today”. I find that I don’t work well when I force it, I just let it all come out kind of whenever it wants to. I like to work with intention.

5. Which current art world trends are you following?

Honestly the stuff I am loving the most right now is just ‘the weirder, the better’ I like things that are non-traditional and interdisciplinary. I am also loving artists that are finding new and interesting ways to display their work outside of a traditional gallery setting. I think making art accessible to everyday people is the most important thing we can do as artists. So talking about social issues and making that work available for people to see is crucial.

6. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

Every time I make something I think about what I am trying to say with it. Yes, bringing attention to a subject is important but so is having an opinion about it or telling a story with it.

7. A lot of your work has an autobiographical aspect. Was there been a shift or change in your life or work that led to what you’re making now?

When I first started making art I thought I wanted to do commercial photography. After doing that for a while it really wasn’t fulfilling. I couldn’t think about doing it long term and being happy with myself or my future. Too many things were happening in the world that I couldn’t ignore and I felt like I could do something better with my life and my art. So many of the things I wanted to talk about and make art about were things that were affecting me as a person and it felt more natural to me to use my physical body and personal experiences to show that.

8. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken.

I think a huge risk for me was finally deciding to make art for myself. So much of what I was doing and worrying about was if other people would like what I was making. I had to reevaluate why I was doing what I was doing and why it was important to me and I decided that being true to myself was more important.

9. What are you most proud of?

Honestly I am most proud of the confidence I have gained by making work. I am quite introverted and shy but my way of stepping out of my shell is making the art that I make.

10. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? 

I have some things in the works for next summer but I’m always making things and trying to show them.

11. What are you listening to at the moment?

As far as I’m concerned Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” is the only music that exists right now.

12. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

Just being told to stop worrying about what other people think of my artwork. Its less important for me to impact 10,000 if 10 people really got what I was trying to say. For me, my art has always been about the concept and the message and sometimes that message is only for a certain audience of people.

13. If you could be any fictional character, whom would you choose?

I would absolutely be Lunella Lafayette! She is a 9-year-old little black girl from the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comics, (she’s Moon Girl), and the smartest person in the Marvel universe! She doesn’t take crap from anyone and her best friend is a tyrannosaurus rex. So like, like goals.

View more of Jillian’s work here.

Re: -flect, -vise, -set

First off, we want to extend a huge, heartfelt thank you to Peter Manion for being the first artist exhibited in our alternative space. Also the biggest thanks going out to everyone who has supported us through these first two months. We are humbled by the response and support of so many wonderful artists. And It’s been fun!! We are so thrilled to bring you so much more in just a few days!

During the last two months, we began reflecting and asked ourselves, what distinguishes our space from other online galleries. It was a difficult question to answer. Sure, we are highlighting gifted artists and bringing inspiration to others. But we want also gallery to send a strong message in a time when, we feel, art is what the world needs. We want to be a part of the spark and drive that promotes change and empowers those who need it the most. And perhaps in our eagerness to bring you all the beautiful, moving entries we received, we lost this focus – even if our hearts were in the right place.

With all of that being said, it’s time for us to announce some BIG changes!

First off, we believe that the two month time slot limits the opportunities we are able to offer other artists. We also would like to keep the interest of our audience by being able to feature more artists, more frequently. Therefore, continuing forward, we are offering one month per artist.

However, the biggest change we are going to make is we have decided that we are only going to feature women and minority artists moving forward. Even with so many women and minorities in the arts, we all are still an unappreciated, undervalued and under showcased as a group.

Art is a strong force for encouraging change and what better time than the present and in this political climate to highlight the strength and power of women and minorities!

Another exciting, little addition is that we will be offering an online exhibition ebook with each exhibition for our viewers. This free resource will highlight some of the work and the interview with our featured artist for the month as well as enhance the overall viewing experience.

We hope you will continue to support us as we make these changes in an effort to enhance your viewing experience, bring inspiration to all and fulfill a much-needed vacancy through our tiny corner of the internet.

Stay tuned as we will be announcing our featured June artist & exhibition tomorrow!

In the Studio: Peter Manion

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1. Please describe your work.

My works are process-driven and deal with the transformative force of art making. I use a variety of non-traditional materials, including Vaseline, vinyl stickers, plaster, and felt, which allow my work to have a bold, frenetic quality completely open to interpretation by the viewer.

Though traditionally a painter, I have expanded my visual and conceptual literacy; experimenting with sculptural materials and surfaces, I am moved to create works that can exist outside of the traditional studio walls. As this body of work has evolved, my practice has shifted from canvas to felt and plaster – and has a much more minimalist feel. The process still commands an action-based approach, similar to my 2D work, but the application of plaster to felt, color spraying, and the rolling and tumbling of the piece once dried is sequential, but not systematic.

Concepts of decay and senescence, and the preciousness of art are challenged with these works. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the sculptures, to reconfigure their placement on the floor or reposition them on the gallery walls.

My sculptures bridge the gap between 2D and 3D. Each is transformative, yielding to the notion that art can move and be boundless without the fear of losing its place.

 

2. What does your work aim to say?

I try to convey the ideas of perception and the preconceived notions the viewer brings with them when encountering my work. For example, my sculptures look heavy and hardened like rock. But once the audience interacts with the work (which I encourage), they see that they are pliable and movable. It imparts the question, “How do we get past our own biases when encountering something we see or experience?”

For me, being an artist is the journey of finding new forms of expression, while at the same time not blocking what another person may find in their own story in it.

 

3. Who or what are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?

I’ve had many artistic influences throughout my life. As a kid, it was the big names like Matisse, Picasso. Then Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Pollock, and Rauschenberg – very much the western European/American artists. These influences very much had a connection to my mother’s sensibilities. She was a painter and collected artwork herself. So I was also exposed to the Spanish and French painters, such as Goya and Delacroix.

Now, I’ve moved away from the traditional artists and look to mostly contemporary artists that use materials in a different way and have a different point of view with image-making. I’m drawn to Sam Gilliam, who I feel has similar work to my own, and Kara Walker, whose work I love for the storytelling and duality of beauty and horror in her subject matter.

 

4. How has social media affected your studio practice?

So much! Social media provides an awareness of other artists – what they’re doing, how their work is similar, what they’re doing differently. Seeing others’ work helps me grow tremendously as an artist. When I see similarities in another’s work, it validates my practice – feeding my energy and giving me the confidence I need as an artist to keep pushing my own creative envelope.

I believe that social media has also kept me authentic in my practice. I don’t try to alter my images, and in doing so, I’m presenting to my audience – and myself – my work in an honest and very self-baring way.

Like all tools, social media can be overused and abused, but by showing my work and snippets of my works-in-progress, it helps to shape and develop the creative landscape and connect with the art community. Seeing art in this unexpected aspect keeps things exciting and, I feel, can open the door to opportunities that wouldn’t be available without this medium.

 

5. What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices?

A common thread that runs through my conceptual choices often happens when I’m installing my works in a show. Working and talking with other artists and curators. I’ve been very open to any and all opportunities and where this path may lead, which is sometimes very random. It’s as if something has been set in motion a very long time ago, and it affects the work as I’m doing it.

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6. How do you know when a work is finished?

I just know. I live with it. I have other people see it. However, I never know it’s done the day that it is finished.

Experience has helped me with that. I’ve learned from my mistakes of overworking a piece. I also make a lot of work – in a way, I flush out the creative crap to get to the good stuff and know when to stop.

 

7. What are you listening to or reading at the moment?

As far as reading, I tend to read more blogs and art criticisms than fiction or more non-traditional nonfiction. I’m a big fan of The White Pube (thewhitepube.com), which is a collaborative identity of Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad. They write criticisms and publish podcasts, mostly exhibition reviews that take away the overly academic/boring/white male nonsense that we see too often in the art world.

I’m also working my way through Glittering Images : A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars by Camille Paglia, which explores visual art from ancient to modern times.

With music, I listen to anything and everything. Jazz, rap, latin. I’m studying Spanish, so I listen to a lot of Spanish blogs and podcasts. There’s a great one called Slow Spanish News where they speak slowly so it’s easier for the learner to understand.

 

8. Can you speak to your own relationship to risk and sacrifice, and what risks have you taken?

A huge sacrifice for me was giving up art and starting a new career (years ago). At the time, I needed to put my family first, which meant sacrificing my own dreams of the future and my identity as an artist. To say that art is over was a huge sacrifice.

Now that I’ve been back, there’s no risk or sacrifice. Risk and sacrifice was early on, with the pain and agony I sustained in those early years. But now, I’m taking on new challenges and doing it on my own terms with a fresh eye.

Being an artist is a wonderful career to be in. I don’t take things too seriously – failure is part of the game. Someone I worked with during my residency in Vermont gave me great advice, “Aim high and you’re going to go high. If you aim low, you’re going to get low.”

 

9. What is the role of the artist in society?

The role of the artist is the filter. We filter what’s happening in society, what we don’t want to see and the subjects that many want to censor – the politics, sexism, misogyny. Artists must stand firm in shining a light on these issues.

When I was young, my mother took me to the Mapplethorpe exhibition in Cincinnati, and it changed my life. To imagine that anyone would want to censor such breathtaking work is bullshit. Thinking about that exhibition still gives me chills with its beauty and powerful presence.

Artists must work to keep the conversation going with current events, and use it as a way to push the artistic limits.

 

10. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

1 – Don’t ever approach a gallery. Let them come to you.

2 – Be in the studio and make work.

3 – Be a nice person. Treat everyone with respect. You never know what you can learn from them and what opportunities may arise from your relationship with them.

 

11. What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?

The differences in trees based on climate and geographical location. Leaves are like the skin of a tree, releasing and holding the water they need to survive. In the Southern Hemisphere (where it’s very humid), the leaves need to be very large to release the water the trees have. And in the Northern Hemisphere, the leaves are very thin (think of pine trees). They’re thin to help them retain their water.

 

View more of Peter’s work here.