What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?
I am working on a few things, as always. My practice is split between studio-based work that’s very self-determined, and community-based work that’s determined by the collective community. Right now, I’m working on my thesis for my MFA in Art with a focus in social practice. That’s happening at Queens College, NY. I think what I’m making now is some of my most personally honest and creative works to date. Social distancing has affected material use and concept as I’m creating with home as a site, using rooms in my apartment as archaeological digs to explore my own state of mind and reality through objects, and what those objects inspire. The material is becoming tactile, like rubbings, and I’m really leaning into sculpture for the first time and returning to photography. There’s a need for world-building as I attempt to understand and communicate these big reality shifts on the level of one human’s psyche (my own).
For my community-based work, I’m excited to share that I’ve been invited to have a solo exhibition at Oklahoma State University in early 2022. I plan on doing a creative community intervention project. I can’t say too much about that because the process depends on the people. I am thinking about it being the 200th anniversary of the Tulsa riots this year (2021), the dynamics of protesting on the OKU campus, and how to be sure to honor the large population of Native Americans that live there. There’s a lot going on in Oklahoma. We’ll have to see if I have a place and something to offer there.
I’m a busybody. Always something rattling around in my head.
What advice and tips can you give to other artists during this time?
Let your body lead you (I don’t know what I mean by that but I do mean it). Sometimes the answers to big questions come from doing smaller things over some time. If you want to know how you fit, first know how you see. Play. It’s good for your art and good for your mental health.
How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?
I’m focusing on my interpersonal relationships. Building my own checks and balances through how I am relating to the world and what I bring in or let go. I hope it serves as a foundation for the path forward. I’m choosing people that can be completely honest with me and see it all because that’s part of love. I’m enjoying people I can have a whole world with, which is everyone, I suppose. Just choose wisely! (Can you tell I’m a Pisces? Sheesh!)
Artistically… the honesty in my new work (no spoilers!) is bringing people to me that can actually support the voice I’ve been hesitant to embrace. That’s resulting in, what I believe to be, stronger work and process…go figure.
I’ll leave the community with a quote from Carrie Mae Weems:
“There is nothing that’s more important than art. Art is the basis of our deepest humanity, and it’s through that that we articulate our deepest concerns, our deepest beliefs, and our most profound ideas about who we are.
And not only are these amazing young artists dealing with notions of social justice as the core of the work, they’re also extraordinary artists of invention.”
In creation, there’s great potential for liberation. Support artists, inform artists, work with artists. I believe it’s essential.
Be well everyone.
Brianna Harlan is a multidisciplinary artist and organizer. She works conceptually in multiform, socially engaged art. Her work is driven by the need to confront how systems violently condition our relational identity, and how that influences quality of life, health, and habits. Brianna is a Kentucky Foundation for Women Fire Starter awardee. Her most recent residencies were at Oxbow School of Art and Artists’ Residency and Materia Abierta in Mexico City. Current projects include an AR Monument to Breonna Taylor and the #SayHerName Movement, made in collaboration with 4th Wall, 21c Museum Hotels, and Breonna’s family and an equity in arts initiative in Louisville, KY that was featured in ARTNews. Harlan also leads community experiences and presentations, having been a speaker at For Freedoms and the Kentucky ACLU events. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Art and Social Action at Queens College, CUNY and made her New York gallery debut with a solo exhibition: Black Love Blooms: New York Nook in September 2020.
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