Artist Spotlight Series: Brooks Burns
I am slightly obsessed with the art of the talented Brooks Burns.
He is a southern boy turned New York man who creates vibrant work that draws you in.
Enjoy getting to know my latest Artist Spotlight Series feature
Brooklyn, New York
What is your training?
I I have a BA in Studio Art from the College of Charleston with a focus on painting and printmaking.
I’ve also taken quite a few painting classes at the Art Students League of New York. Classes are invaluable, but I think that most of what I draw from these days was learned outside of a classroom – mostly through trial and error and many, many mistakes. Mishaps are our greatest teachers.
What inspires you and your designs?
Some people get inspired by nature – I have this weird obsession with things (and people) that a little quirky or “unnatural.” The lines, shapes, and colors that come together in NYC, and the eccentricities that so many of us here carry around marry together and create a never ending pool of inspiration – everyone here has a backstory that reads like a book, and everyone lives in a box on top of another box – knowing that things take place in each of those boxes every night is so fascinating to me. The people I see inspire me to create a narrative and try to develop a sense of meaning out of the idea of existence.
What is your favorite piece?
I don’t hang my own art on my walls, I think I’d just keep painting them until the weight of the paint made them pull the walls down. This means that I never see anything that I paint for more than a day or two after the varnish dries, and it kind of keeps whatever it is that I’m working on at any given time in that “favorite” spot..
Right now, though, I love my new little triptych that I call “Three Dollies.’ It is part word play and part Byzantine icon. It has what I see as the “right” amount of kitsch and a little wit thrown in, to boot. Successfully adding humor to art is challenging for me, and I think that I did it works well. It makes me smile.
How has the your area influenced your work?
I grew up in South Carolina, and I love it there, but it doesn’t get my creative juices flowing like they do in New York. I didn’t paint for a number of years before I moved here a decade ago, and now I can’t put my brush down for more than a few hours. I have no doubt that my location has more to do with this change than any other factor, and it is a huge part of what drives me to continue to produce work – I love it here, and I don’t know that I would acclimate very well if I had to move elsewhere.
What is your favorite restaurant in NY?
I love a good view, and Dumbo House in Brooklyn has one of the best in the city. A dinner jacket isn’t necessary, and they make a pretty mean mac and cheese. It’s a great place to go with a few friends or to meet new, creative people.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I’m such a lightweight these days – it’s diet coke (from a fountain) for me.
How do you balance personal life and work?
There are too few hours in a day to do it as well as I’d like to, but I’m much better at prioritizing than I was 5 years ago. I pretty much always “show up,” but I usually don’t stay all that long. I need a lot of time to myself, so I spend the bulk of my free time alone – it keeps me productive and somewhat sane.
I haven’t been to Berlin. The art scene there is really thriving right now, and a lot of cool stuff is coming out of it. I’d really love to experience it at some point.
Creating work for a Kelly Wearstler-designed hotel would be my ultimate dream job. I would be so stoked.
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
I always find great host/hostess gifts at the farmer’s market. My go-tos are usually sunflowers (I love how they brighten up a space) or locally made jam and a great loaf of artisan bread.
Did I just quote Gwenyth Paltrow?
Who is your style icon?
I have so many, but Vivienne Westwood comes in at number one. I admire so much about her designs, her fearlessness, and her way of being. It’s difficult to stay strong in the face of adversity, but when others laughed at her, she managed the courage to laugh right back at them. She loves what she creates, and it shows.
Your favorite up and coming artist?
Andy Dixon’s way of painting is really beautiful. He’s been very successful for the last number of years, but the art world would still say that he is “emerging.” His commentary is refreshing because he says what he needs to say without mockery, and his use of color is fantastic – I love how his pinks and blues compliment one another..
What is your most treasured possession?
I have a book that is filled with memories – pictures, letters/writings, small objects – from my childhood through the recent past. I get super nostalgic when I flip through it. I try not to get attached to anything, but it is pretty special to me.
What are you reading?
I am finishing up “Uncanny Valley” by Anna Weiner – she is a really good writer and tells an extremely relatable story about the dysfunction and misogyny that she experienced while working in Silicon Valley. It;s definitely a must-read.
What are you listening to?
I’m loving Oscar Scheller right now. He’s a Brit producer, and he collaborated with some great artists when making his newest album. It’s great to work to and (poorly) dance to, as well.
I read a few contemporary art blogs/zines – Hyperallergic, BOOOOOOOM!, Hi-Fructose. I love Architectural Digest. The Sunday Times is my must have, though – old school style – I love to flip through and get the tips of my fingers a little inky.
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