An Interview and Studio Visit with Brandi Milne

by JL SchnabelPosted on

Hi-Fructose correspondent JL Schnabel recently sat down with Los Angeles based artist Brandi Milne to discuss her latest solo show, “My Heart Shall Not Fear”, which opened this past weekend at Corey Helford Galleryin Culver City. Stay tuned to Hi-Fructose over the coming week forexclusive pics from the show’s opening as well as a comprehensive review. Full interview and studio visit below.

Where does the title of the show come from? By using “MY” it seems to place the work in a personal context. Do you consider the work to be a narrative or autobiographical?

The title and the work in the show are definitely personal narratives. The title ‘My Heart Shall Not Fear’ is a “goal” of sorts in the way I’m approaching my work. I want to be free in my work, and to lose this timidness that seems to haunt me at times. And dealing with the subject of the show, (life, death and beyond) it has great double meaning in addressing that as well.

Over the years your figures have evolved while still retaining their trademark long limbs. Yet in this show it seems as if they closer in size to their surroundings and companions. Can you talk a bit about this? Also, do they represent the same “person” in different incantations or are they different characters in the same story?

I enjoy bending scale in my work. In these new pieces, it wasn’t as important to bend the scale as it was to make the characters feel as if they were at home in their environment. These things are not intentional – they come instinctually.

I would say that the girls in my paintings are representational of myself. My way of narrating – a way to relate to the viewer. Not exactly a self-portrait, but a vessel to convey the emotion I’m working to get across in each particular piece. But then again, I use some of the darker characters as a way to create a sense of doom or fear – and that’s definitely NOT me. Like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, I don’t feel like a witch…mostly.

In previous works, many of your figures appear holding an item such as a piece of fruit or a small animal in a whimsical, endearing way. Yet here, the figures seem to be holding onto the animals in a more urgent manner, as if to save them from their fate. Can you speak about this transition?

I think that’s a sense of panic, inside me. I don’t want to lose the people that I love, I don’t want to lose the memories of childhood and the good times. I don’t want to lose what I have, my family, my friends, my work. I never thought I would lose my mom. And now having lost her, I feel like I could lose everything.

Some of the characters appear dangerous and sinister such as in “Give Me Your Soul, Little One “ while in others they appear to be in aid of hurt birds. Even the backgrounds take on this duality. Can you talk about these conflicting ideas?

The story in this work is of life and death, good and evil. To touchon both, it is very conflicting, but I feel it rounds out the seriesnaturally. It echoes real life.

If “Run Rabbit Run” was created around “being in a dark place and wanting to run from it”, what would the “center” of this show be?

Accepting. Dealing with that “dark place”, and not being fearful. Being able or ready to deal with what may come.

The new paintings, while still containing the recurring symbols & themes of candy, fairy tales and innocence have seemed to grow darker, more melancholy. Can you talk about what you were thinking of when exploring these themes?

Well, in the past two years, my outlook on the world and life itself has changed dramatically. It was easy to draw inspiration from my childhood before; like candies and innocence, which gave my work that playfulness. But now, the melancholy essence in my work parallels the outlook I have, having witnessed and suffered such ugly despair, loneliness and pain.

The color palette you used for this now contains a lot of traces of red, most significantly with the inclusion of blood; the hints of an open wound appear on nearly all of the figure’s clothing. However it seems that in most of the work, the threat of physical danger isn’t physically present. Can you talk about this choice?

Yes, exactly – an open wound, bleeding out. In the personal narrative, this is an illustration of my heart being broken and ripped open. It sounds pretty graphic and ugly, but somehow in the paintings I feel it’s very warm and soft and at home with the rest of the piece(s). It’s not garish at all.

It has been over a year since your last solo show; and you have worked on this show for a long period of time. What has this done to your work process?

Yes, this is definitely the longest I’ve worked on such a small amount of work (18). I really wanted to put myself to the test with this body of work, I wanted to put my EVERYTHING into each piece, push it to it’s limit and take my time. I told myself if this was the very last show I had on earth, how would I approach it? What would I speak of? Taking so much time, it did allow me to develop my ideas a lot finer, but I did find at the same time, I was having to deal with different inspirations and personal growth as time went by.

Can you describe your work process from inception to end? What is a typical work day for you like?

Before I sketch any ideas out in my sketchbook, I search and search for inspiration. I find myself looking for old children’s books and antiques (from my childhood). I search inside to find what I want to paint about, how I’m feeling or what story I’d like to tell. After a long period of inspiration search, I start sketching ideas and developing my story. When I feel I have enough sketches to draw from, I start the painting process. My two favorite parts of the painting process – isn’t the painting. I love sketching the image out onto the wood, and after all the painting’s done, I love inking the entire thing. That’s when everything comes together and I feel that control again. It surges through my veins like a lunatic!

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