BRIANNA MARTRAY | Featured Artist
One of my favorite painters in Denver is artist Brianna Martray. Her paintings of surreal landscapes are at once beautiful and haunting. And her work continues to evolve, in series, including moving into three dimensional pieces. Below is a Q&A with the artist.
How long have you been an artist? How long a full-time artist?
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. A moment I go back to in my childhood was in the third grade during art class. We were working on a drawing and I remember a teacher’s assistant was in class helping out and she was walking around the classroom observing our work. When she got to my desk she paused and called out across the room to our third grade teacher, “Wow, you can really tell who the real artists are, can’t you?” My teacher, I’m sure, cringed at the volunteer mother calling attention to this in front of all the other hard working aspiring artists, but that’s one of the few memories I have of the third grade, so obviously it meant a lot to me and the confidence it gave my smaller self was surely invaluable.
I went to school for creative writing and then went on to write a novel in my early twenties. Somewhere down deep I think I always knew my true calling was the visual arts. I have been a full-time artist for the most part for three years. So far, it’s been the most fulfilling and happiest three years of my life.
What was the turning point that launched your career?
When I got my first large commission, quit my job and moved into a studio on Santa Fe Drive in December 2006. I remember hearing myself tell my former boss that this was my big break, my one shot, I had to grab it or lose it. I didn’t really believe myself at the time, not even close, but in that instance, ‘fake it until you make it’ worked out in my favor. I was terrified, actually. But as soon as this idea of being a working artist became a possibility, as soon as this cliff was in my awareness there was no stopping me from jumping.
What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
Nature, fractals, the cosmos and intuition. Also, the circle. Hugely, the circle. It transcends everything, it’s everywhere, the orbit of our planet around the sun, the shape of our cells, the iris of our eyes, the seasons, the cycles of life; like a big circle drawn around everything, yes, I’ll take it all. In the 3-D format, this circle has expanded to this tube-like shape for me which also speaks of life at it’s most basic form, the bronchi of our lungs, our veins, the sponge at the bottom of the sea, a worm hole in space. So within the context of this obsession with circles and fractals–also everywhere, in everything, I think of myself as a landscape artist. The moment a piece breaks open for me is the moment I’m clear about what landscape I’m in and what lives there. From the cosmic to microscopic, the very big to very small, I have a gypsy heart and I want to explore every facet of endless landscapes.
What is your typical day like?
Truly, no two days are the same, which is perfect for me given my dread of boredom and fear of stagnation. Typically, though, I do most of my running around and ‘business’ type stuff during the day, a run to Home Depot or Meiningers, a trip to the foundry, applying to shows, returning emails, meeting with clients, lugging art around to various venues, etc. And then I eat dinner and settle in for ‘second shift’, which is when I make art. Second shift usually runs from about dinner time to as late as I can stay up, but I’ve found if I start the day out making art I will never get done any of that other stuff I don’t want to do, so I have to do it first. Often people comment on how prolific I am, and it’s true; but I work hard for it. 16 hour days are common and I rarely work less than 12, usually about 6 to 8 on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. I love what I do and I recognize it’s worth working for, and so I do.
What should we look forward to from you in 2010?
Sculpture! Right now I’m focusing solely on the 3D world, although eventually I’d like to marry the two, the paintings and the sculpture. I’m absolutely immersed in 3D work right now, I think I have about 15 pieces in process at the foundry right now. I’m working mostly in bronze, although I’ve cast a couple aluminum pieces that are hanging pieces. I’m using the lost wax method so most will be “one off”. I’ve also recognized for a little bit now that the next step in my career it to reach an audience outside of Denver so I will be traveling a lot. Who knows what 2011 will hold!