PDX Profile: Brent Wear
Brent Wear's paintings manage to be funny, charming, and a tiny bit wistful all at the same time. I love his cheerful use of color, and I have an enduring crush on Bird Pants Man.
I love the cast of characters in your work! Have these birds and other creatures always populated your work, or have they shown up more recently? Most of the characters started showing up in 1998 after I moved to Portland from Kansas City. First there were the birds which evolved from canary-like birds into the toy-like characters they are now.
Bird Pants Man was a evolution from those guys around 2000, and soon after that the the "cast" grew to include a cupcake bird, a mechanical hummingbird, plus a host of real birds, a robotic love bird and a group of crow like birds that wear human clothes. Also steam trains, humans, and other random objects. (The characters and narrative definately point to a story, the first of which I am currently working on.) But there definitely was a dramatic change in my work before I moved to Portland. My paintings were much more sparse and varied, often murky abstract paintings and drawings. I'm pretty certain that the rainy Portland winters made me want to brighten things up a bit!
Your work is hard to define. On some levels, it's whimsical, and on others, it's a little wistful. How do you describe what's going on in your paintings? Yeah, i always have a hard time with that one. I would say they can very emotional and intense, and a reflection of my own life experience. They can run the gauntlet from happy to sad, sometimes in the same painting. I think it is a reflection of how I express my emotions through the medium: since I'm not so inclined to be emotional in public... I express it through paint.
A good friend told me recently that he can tell how I'm doing by the paintings I'm working on. It is definitely a form of personal therapy that I happen to share with the world and somehow manage to make a living from. The characters are whimsical, and whimsical is what I'm drawn to...but the emotion is always present. Once that I started seeing a narrative in my work, I could see the reflection of what I was going through or what I was seeing in the world around me. The emotions are not always pleasant or hopeful, and sometimes the sadness comes through. But in the end I hope that the effect is optomistic and thought provoking.
I also love the humor in your work. What role would you say humor can play in art? (I know - what a tiny little question!) :-) Tiny? No way thats a big one! Humor is one of the most wonderful things ever. Humor heals wounds. Humor is both disarming and a force for positive change. The ability to laugh is absolutely essential to human existence. Sometimes I use it to make fun of myself, so I don't take myself so seriously...in my life or my art. Other times to laugh at the absurdity of the human/world condition. Seriously one of the greatest joys for me is seeing one of my paintings make someone laugh. It helps me feel like what I'm doing is worth while.
On the Bio page of your website, you talk about the importance of being involved in your community. What would you say are some good services artists and crafters can offer their communities? There are so many ways you can give back. For an artist or craftsperson you can do that on so many levels. Artists can and do beautify their environment and community, it's almost second nature. It can be as simple as, for example: if you have extra money, buy a painting from an artist you like. Or a piece of clothing made by someone you know who makes clothes. Get into group shows and work with other artists or collaborate on a project or curate a show. You can also volunteer your time creatively to any number of non-profits for the arts around town. Once you start looking around the options are plentiful.
How would you say that "Art" differs from "Craft?" Thats a hard one to me to define and I must say that is a subjective experience for the individual. To me for a long time, the word "craft" made me think of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners at vacation bible school. That was my own stigma against it, it implied something made in a haphazard fashion that was not very interesting. On the other hand "art" implied something pretentious and accessible to only the elite and privileged.
But I think now the word "craft" itself has been redifined as a kind of functional art. Nowadays a lot that I see out there that is defined as craft is very well made and innovative. Personally I think everyone should be able to have original art if they want it. So to me the craft movement is blurring the line, and perhaps expanding the definition.... and hopefully our appreciation and experience of what "art" is.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Oh jeez, where to begin? p:ear, Shop People, IPRC, the City Repair Project, Reading Frenzy, Floating World Comics, Missing Link... Seriously I can't name them all because the list would be insane.
I must say that my favorite spot right now is where my studio is at the Egg art collective. it has been such an amazing transformative experience for me. its kind of like working in the middle of a circus. The great thing is that it is such a great cross section of mediums: clothing, visual art, and performance. It is also home to the Launch Pad Gallery and rehearsal space for MarchFourth Marching Band. The space has evolved over the years like a kind of creative petrie dish. It can get pretty lively in there and the First Friday art openings are always a good time. I fell very fortunate to have a place there.
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