Friday, April 4, 2014

Interview with 2014 Finalist Brannon Rockwell-Charland

How have you grown as an artist since coming to college?

I’ve learned a lot of art language--various processes and tools and media, which sounds minor but has been a big part of my learning experience. I’ve also started looking at a lot of other people’s art. Researching artists and their work has been great not only in terms of generating new ideas but in understanding my work in a historical context.  
I also underwent a huge change in the type of art that I did and what I called it. I got to college thinking of myself as a documentary photographer, and then I had this big existential art crisis where I became totally disillusioned with “documentary,” because what is documentary, really? There is so much power behind a camera that purports to be “purely documenting.” So I started working with other media--wood, hair, ink, fabric, found materials--and using myself as my own model when I took photos.  

What type of art do you look to for inspiration?

I find a lot of artistic, scholarly, and life inspiration in vernacular art--old family stories, traditional songs, legends, mythology, lost photographs, objects made by self-taught folks. Selkie, mermaid, and soucouyant legends, for example, have been huge influences in my work lately. Also, I recently read a book which catalogued excavated objects found in Carthage, Tunisia from when the Romans ruled which gave me a ton of ideas for new projects.  

How has participating in this competition helped you develop as a professional artist?

The whole process has been a great exercise in putting together a professional online application. Having to prepare a ten-project portfolio and write about my own work in a clear, concise way has been really helpful in terms of understanding and articulating my own work and how it functions. 

What are your plans after graduation with the arts?

In June I’ll be reading some of my written work at the Mixed Remixed Festival in LA, and then I’ll go to New York to intern with photographer Lyle Ashton Harris for the rest of the summer. Within the next 2 years, I hope to attend graduate school for Africana Studies and/or art. 

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