This month at Velouria we have the wonderful soft-sculptures by artist, Colleen RJC Bratton. Colleen has been living in Brooklyn, New York for the past year and has created a new body of work based on this transition from Seattle to Brooklyn. In a twist of fate, Colleen and her husband will be returning to the Pacific Northwest this month!
In the organizing of this months show Hannah had the chance to learn more about Colleen and her process, spending time with her work and chatting via email. Below is a portion of that correspondence:
Velouria: Do you think your time in New York/East Coast has changed or influenced you/your work?
Colleen Bratton: Definitely. While in Seattle I made new work constantly without much regard to what each of their physical impacts would be. I went from a 200 square foot studio and large apartment in Seattle to working with about 50 square feet inside my New York apartment. I was doing art almost full-time in Seattle but in New York I worked part-time with another artist. The time and spatial limitations of New York City put restrictions on not only the scale of work I was making but also on the quantity. At first this was frustrating, but I quickly realized that the limitation was an opportunity to hone in on the quality. I felt a responsibility to only make work I felt was worth existing; otherwise I’d be creating waste. In January I started working on Settling In with the work Contrast. The idea for the piece came from a sketch I made four months prior which was my first week in the city. Many of my pieces function this way: I let them soak for quite some time before coming to the surface in tangible form. For the first seven months of the series I only made one work a month. This pacing allowed me the room to fine tune my process and find a trustworthy groove for making. While at Vermont Studio Center, this groove gave me the freedom to bring six more works to fruition in one month’s time.
New York City is one of the most vibrant places I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always wanted to create a body of work inspired by a public sphere and the city’s subway system was the perfect conduit. Millions of people ride the subway on a weekly basis. It’s the most public sphere in New York City and it’s the metropolitan’s connective tissue. When people are down in the tunnels a lot of the time they have no cell phone reception. The bustle of the city above comes to a halt and it’s just you and the people around you attempting to occupy their own attentions in that space. It’s a collective experience unlike any other. This series is partially a love letter to that space. It’s also about figuring out my place within that environment and charting its personality both architecturally and socially. It’s the first time I’ve worked with painting and fabric together. The hardness of the painting represents the unknown, foreign parts of the environment while the soft fabric reveals the comfort that comes after adaptation.
V: Much of the series "Settling In," draws inspiration from NYC, do you feel like this series is being cut short now that you're moving back West?
CB: Time Cut Short deals with that realization. The negative space in this piece weighs equal with the positive. I can feel that parallel universe in which I stayed in NYC, just in the same way I can feel the other half of that square in Time Cut Short. But I’ll never actually know what that looks like because I made the decision to move back to Seattle. I made the decision to not add that second half to Time Cut Short. The entrance to that tunnel has been filled and has become impenetrable.
There are many more works in this series that are waiting to come to fruition. For the meantime I’ll continue to make them manifest.
This body of work came out of my acclimation to New York City. It would be naïve to say I have Seattle all figured out and acclimating back will be easy as pie. The term “vice versa” comes to mind and I think I’ll focus on that.
V: Space and self are two central themes to your work, do you plan on revisiting places that have previously been sources of inspiration (like the Frye), if so do you think you'll see the space or yourself in a new light?
CB: When I join a new environment I usually wait it out to see what resonates with me. My work is primarily about the relationship between self and space over time so until time enters that equation I don’t know what places I’ll choose to study. The locations I focus on tend to be spots that are part of my normal routine. The Frye was routine when I was a security guard there. I do hope to continue to make art about public places. I’m drawn to how the familiar imagery of public places makes the work more relatable to the viewer.
V: What are you most looking forward to upon your return?
CB: First, being close to my dear friends and family again. Secondly, the art scene in Seattle is so lovely and supportive. It’s incredible how excited they are about new and experimental methods. Thirdly, I’ve missed that lush, gothic green deeply. There’s nothing like living in a city surrounded by clean water, grandiose mountains, and a blanket of emerald. It’ll be good to breathe in clean air and find new ground in the Pacific Northwest.