On a surprisingly warm night, we got one of the most active winter Gallery Stroll nights I've seen in a long time: Not too hard to get around, and plenty of food carts and trucks on hand to keep those treading the pavement fed as they walked around town. This month, I made my way over to Vive Juicery on Broadway, where painter Brandy Sorensen had her latest works up for display. I chatted with her prior to the show about her career and latest works, and you can check out what's hanging up this month below.
Brandy Sorensen on Facebook
Gavin: Hey Brandy, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a quiet, simple girl wholoves nature and everything there is to learn about life! Most people don’t know that I feed my family working in the media center at a local high school during the day. I love learning on every level. I study things, sometimes considerably weird things, simply for the enjoyment of knowing more about them. I once read an entire book about cadavers just out of curiosity. This is, however, an unfortunate side effect of being a library girl, and really it offers very little help when students ask me about my latest read, forcing me to think back to the book I just completed on the evolution of birth control! I love the sunshine and tolerate the winter by waterproofing everything I own and throwing myself into the experience. I’m a mom, it’s my favorite, favorite job and I really hate talking about myself.
What first got you interested in art, and what were your major influences growing up?
Art was cultivated in my house growing up. I was raised by hippie-ish parents who both believed in the art of life. I grew up watching my mom draw and paint, and my dad makes clever creations from macramé and plays every instrument imaginable, from the trumpet to the pan flute. There was always an appreciation and display of art in our home. Our walls were covered with works from family heritage and the corners were home to the pottery of great grandparents. I think being surrounded by all of these things was a big influence that art is a part of life and not something that you just do.
You were originally from Arkansas, what eventually brought you out to Utah?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I just came for the fry sauce! Honestly, when I was very young, my parents decided our small town in Arkansas might not be as culturally stimulating as they wanted us to experience, so they uprooted my sister and me, and moved to Los Angeles. On the cusp of our teen years, they then decided we might be becoming just a bit too culturally stimulated, and relocated us to the desert air of Southern Utah.
Did you attend college at all for art, or were you more self-taught?
I have a small foundation on which I started from growing up in an artistic family, which I would really like to expand on at some point through classes, but no, I have never attended any classes or courses for technical study. I have a significant amount of respect for those who study their passion and evolve their skills through higher learning. Although I’ve thought about studying art over the years, I do have a slight fear gaining technical knowledge could take away from the raw expressionism that seems to be the impactful element of my art. Further, I’d hate to get to a point where I don’t enjoy painting because it becomes too technical, and I feel like I need to become a perfectionist. For me, art is an extension of how I see things, it’s a form of expressing what I see. I tend to be obsessive about the order in other areas of my life so I have trepidation about bringing that into my art world.
What specifically drew you toward painting as your preferred medium?
Growing up, I would draw, sketch and color. I never used paints simply because I never thought I would understand them well enough to produce anything I really dug. It wasn’t until my sister, a fellow artist suggested a few years ago that I give it a shot, and I fell in love with the freedom it gave me to throw out the details and really express myself. The way paint can be manipulated and morphed into something through feeling and emotion is stunning to me.
Where do you find the inspiration for your works?
All around me. I am absolutely inspired all the time. There are so many interesting things around us. Essentially, I tend to find inspiration where some might consider the ugliness of life, which is sort of strange to say considering the type of somewhat neurotic personality I have otherwise. I prefer a tidy order in my life, but am intrigued with and find beauty in the dingiest corners and darkest alleys. In addition, through my exploration of life, I find inspiration in events, culture and connections. I’m very affected by the connection of things. People, life events, effects of life events. I find the way things interweave inspirationally stimulating.
How do you approach a new piece, from concept to final design?
I feel like everything I do begins as a doodle. I wish I had something significant and outstanding to share as a process, but it’s really very simple. I keep a notebook with me always so, as I’m inspired throughout the day, I can jot down thoughts and ideas that are eventually turned into paintings. Sometimes they are inspiring words, or a picture snapped on my phone, or even (and often) a quick doodle that probably means very little to anyone who sees it. Further, I make an effort to create something every day or as often as I possibly can, even if it isn’t the beginning of a new painting. Sometimes, taking the time to challenge creativity is the most difficult place to begin, but absolutely necessary. Once I begin a painting, I try to focus a lot of attention on the same project, although I have to admit I tend to have some attention deficit in this area and sometimes have several pieces scattered about. I generally work in layers, adding through the process. Because I don’t always complete a painting in one sitting, a lot of times the concept will change and transform into something that varies from where it began. Sometimes I will begin as a rough albeit well-thought-out sketch, and other times I will just paint without purpose and allow the final design to evolve from raw emotion.
Do you find yourself messing with it as you go, or when you have an image do you like to stick with it?
I absolutely find myself messing with it as I go. I begin with an idea, but rarely a definitive image in my head. Even when I paint from an intended image I can’t keep from altering it, inspired by whatever I’m feeling at the moment, by what emotion the painting is bringing out of me, or even incorporating other subject matter sometimes not related to the basic concept.
What was it like for you getting involved with the Utah art scene and displaying across the Wasatch Front?
It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there on display for people to critique, so having such positive feedback has been wonderful. The local art world, as well as other local artists I have met, have been very welcoming and it’s been really exhilarating being part of something that seems to be budding as a significant part of community culture. I definitely feel a kinship and support from Utah’s art scene.
Tell us about the works you have on display for this month’s Stroll.
The pieces I currently have on display in Salt Lake’s Gallery Stroll include pieces from a series I titled "Deleterious," because they were influenced by witnessing the ailments my family experienced from the ill effects contributed by the poor air quality we experience throughout winter months across the Wasatch Front. The "Funk" series is one of the favorites of my art babies; are you supposed to pick favorites? I have favorites. The inspiration came from pleasure research of the Harlem Renaissance. Being a fan of the colorful culture of hip-hop already, I felt like there was an interlinking aspect that might have encouraged the birth of hip-hop, or, at least, paved the way for the counterculture. In addition, there are pieces inspired by love—not just as the generic essence of the term, but the devotion or commitment the declaration requires.
What has it been like working with Vive Juicery to display your works this month?
Vive Juicery has been a treat to work with. They’re obviously a fun group of people doing good things, but they’ve also offered flexibility for me to display pieces without stringent procedures to follow. It’s been a great opportunity and nice to fit into the niche of fresh living and the community feel that they offer. Additionally, we’re collaborating on some potential projects for next month’s Stroll, which will be a fun way for the community to be involved as well.
What’s your take on the Utah art scene as it is now?
I’m really excited to see art becoming more incorporated into small businesses and open for everyone to enjoy. The art scene in Utah is clearly growing and playing a big part in the evolution of the community. It’s refreshing to see the effect, the incorporation of art into small businesses has on communities. It’s also nice to walk into a local restaurant and see artwork from people that thrive in the same community. I think it creates a better union among people even in neighboring communities.
Not including yourself, who are some local artists that you enjoy checking out and would recommend?
I’m really fortunate to be in the company of such incredible talent! And I can’t wait to take it all in. I definitely can’t wait to check out Hayden Osmun’s photography. I love street and urban art in all forms and am anxious to see it captured through the lens. Additionally, I’m really looking forward to seeing Eric Fairclough’s work in person. The detail looks astounding, and I think it is difficult to capture that much detail through a picture and will be much more appreciated first hand. Also, I’ll be popping into Nostalgia just to see Jared Knight’s colorful artwork. Jared seems motivated and inspired in a similar manner to my interpretation, so I’m really anxious to experience his expressive vision. Last but very certainly not least, John Erickson’s art is superb, and I’m super stoked to check it out in person.
What can we expect to see from you over the rest of the year?
Hopefully a lot. I enjoy painting and love the passionate response I get from people who enjoy it. I tend to not take life to seriously so lately I’ve been painting a lot of material that is just free in form and inspired by nothing but fun-loving creativity. As I mentioned I’m collaborating with Vive on a fun project for next month's Gallery Stroll. In addition, I currently have some pieces on display at Pandemonium Gallery in Ogden for the stroll there, and I may be doing some of the art markets this summer. I would like definitely like to move my art into several more locations along the Wasatch Front over the next few years.