Interview with Rebecca Brantley by Kenlontae Turner
KT: Your work has a very dynamic and fluid quality, as if it could reach beyond the bounds of the surface it is composed on. How do you know when a piece is done?
RB: Luckily, I work in a medium that requires natural stopping points. Using aqueous media on paper means I often pause to let the surface dry before coming back with another layer. Also, my process works as inverse abstraction. I start with a non-objective layer of paint and then build imagery that verges on recognizable. It starts to tell a story to me. I don't expect the viewer to understand these, but I think they often intuit them. Finally, I feel a work is complete when everything seems to reach a state of equilibrium; that is, one part doesn't feel more worked than another.
KT: There seems to be some influences from nature in your work, such as insect wings, floral forms, etc. In what way(s) do elements found in nature motivate/influence your work?
RB: Yes! Nature is a major influence--though of course this is quite board. I think it works in two different ways: visual and theoretical. First, I love to look at plants, microscopic life, images of space, and so on. I'm especially drawn to pattern and color, which we often forget have vital functions in nature: for example, a flower's hue attracts pollinators or a vivid pattern might truly be camouflage. Second, when I make these paintings, I think a lot about nature on a systemic level. To humans, and to me, nature seems cruel. Darwin understood that evolution occurs a result of suffering: species only become stronger when introduced to predators or disease. This seems tragic to me since I am part of this system, but I imagine that my paintings deal with the poetics of nature's unthinking and seemingly brutal transience. Everything is always in flux. It's kind of beautiful.
KT: Which artist(s) has had the greatest influence on you and your work?
RB: I studied art history as well as painting, so this is a difficult question for me. My gut response is everyone! Modernist painting really shaped me as a young student artist. Surrealism--especially biomorphic abstraction like that Andre Mason--has an obvious connection to what I do. Yet, I only realized this later, after I had begun to work in this particular mode. (Dare I say it's subconscious?) Early on, I was also drawn to Italian Mannerism. I think the way that these painters translate reality into strange, otherworldly surface-oriented images is amazing! Finally, I became drawn to using watercolor and pencil together in the early 2000s when Henry Darger was getting a lot of
Rebecca Brantley paints, teaches, and writes about art. She is the director of the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, where she also teaches. The paintings on view at the Linda Matney Gallery are part of an ongoing series of work that she began in 2005. Rebecca’s work from this series has been shown in venues in Georgia, New York and Morocco. Rebecca has also worked as a curator, organizing shows for Athens’ premier contemporary arts space, ATHICA: Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, where she also served as a board president 2014-2016.