Tell me a little bit about you!: I’m a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma currently living in the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York. I studied Communication Design at Parsons in New York City and worked in the photo industry for a few years before moving upstate.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?: I have always loved to draw and make things, and I’ve been a visual person as long as I can remember. I was the kid who wanted to stay inside and draw during recess.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I’m also interested in how technology and, in particular, the way we communicate changes our perception and our understanding of the world. We’re suddenly connected globally in this profound and immediate way. We can use computers to analyze data at a speed and scale that we never thought possible, but I feel that our connection and understanding of the world has suffered in this moment rather than flourished. The type of information that’s available now, and its ubiquity seems to have outgrown our ability to easily understand it – or perhaps we’ve just become numbed by the deluge.
I want to point out in a playful way that all of this data and constant information is incredible, but it’s faulty. It’s not as complete or as tangible as what’s right outside your door. I want to acknowledge that the world is still right there in front of us, and it’s so beautiful. There’s no glitching, no loading, it’s all there, and the closer you look the more it gives you. I hope to create an experience that’s similar to interacting with nature, but through a digital lens, knowing full well that I’ll never achieve the level of beauty or detail or grandure that nature has to offer, but striving none the less. I’m seeking to illuminate the gulf between what is man made and what is natural.
I’m really interested in that sort of binary shift between spaces, ideas, and processes in a traditional painting studio and a digital work space. Did this develop naturally, or did you at some point discover one or the other and begin to integrate it into your practice?
Inspired by Jackson Pollock, I began stretching my own canvases and making expressionistic abstract paintings at the age of 12. I worked in this more traditional sense until I studiedCommunication Design at Parsons and became fascinated with the flow of information and how data can be translated into images to create a more informative and immersive visual experience. After graduation, I worked as an Archivist for Mark Seliger, a portrait photographer who has photographed big name musicians and celebrities since the 70’s. Working with his archive (which was composed mainly of film photographs) and translating it into a digital space was another conceptual leap for me. While working for Mark, I sought a respite from photography and began to make paintings again, only this time I photographed them extensively as I went along, creating a time based, shifting understanding of the work that I could reference again and again, even after the paint was dry. I also met a great young photographer named Paris Helena while working with Mark. Paris and I collaborated on a project in 2016 where she envisioned her photographs surrounded by paint: the real portraits bleeding into my own abstractions. This foray into digital painting was the beginning of in the work I am most involved with now.
Since then, I’ve been most excited by the tension that exists artistically between physical and digital spheres. It’s also so important for me to remain limber and flexible mentally and oscillating between these two modes of working definitely helps in that regard. I can do things digitally that are totally impossible in the physical studio, but things that almost happen by accident when working physically are impossible to recreate when working digitally. I try to blend the two as much as I can, but at the end of the day, I feel that we’re living in the digital era and the work needs to rely primarily on the tools that are shaping our way of interacting with each other now rather than those we have been using for centuries.
Do you find that you are more interested in exhibiting or sharing one or the other, or does it depend on the circumstances?
I want to live in the space between. While I love the fact that I can give someone a work that will exist on their wall and be there forever, it’s exciting to be able to update my website with new work and share it immediately, for free, with the anyone in the world who cares to look. I think of the work I share through my website as river thats always flowing and evolving, while the physical pieces are more like stones that are planted in the water or on the shore. They’re static and permanent, but they shape the flow of the digital work and serve as landmarks.
What is your process like?
I’m always making notes, visually, photographically, mentally. Trying to gather as much raw information as possible that I can use later to compose my work in the studio. It’s similar to how some of the Hudson River School artists composed their work back in the early 19th century. Venturing out into the wilderness to capture lots of different pieces of nature which they would compose into a single piece in their studio.
I feel a real kindred spirit with that group. The way they were exploring a wild and new landscape (new at least to European eyes) reminds me of our contemporary moment. We’re suddenly forced to acknowledge our role as environmental actors rather than just users – in dialog with the earth. I feel that this understanding changes our relationship to the land in a really profound way.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My art teacher in high school, Mr. Hardee, taught me that art is a way of moving through life. Being born an artist means that you’ve been given a life unlike any other and must respect the gifts that you have been given. To abandon or turn your back on your art is to turn your back on your purpose, and there’s nothing worse than that.
Describe your studio.
My studio shifts between a physical one that I use for traditional painting and a digital one which I use for creating my most recent work. I tend to move between the two to keep things fresh and moving. When I’m burned out with one way of creating I can generally spark something new with the other.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
It’s hard to balance an rigorous artistic practice with the financial responsibilities of living in the United States. I’m always trying to hustle in two ways to make ends meet, and it can be inspiring in a way, but I sure wish I could just focus on making my art.
Do you ever feel a disconnect or a tension between technology and nature, or do you find that you have a language with both?
I feel a profound disconnect and tension between technology and nature, but I feel that it’s our generation’s responsibility to navigate the space between the two and find a way to coexist between them. It seems to me that we have been marching towards the idea of a techno-oriented paradise since the early part of the 19th century, and only now are we beginning to look around and take stock of all that we have lost along the way. All of the natural species and spaces that have disappeared. My generation has grown up surrounded by technology, and it has only crept more deeply into our lives as we have grown older. It feels like there’s a genuine need for young people to return to nature, even if it’s in a small way, to reclaim some of what it is to be human, without a computer to think and see and tell you how to feel. I hope that my work can illuminate that sentiment in some way. And perhaps help us learn to live with technology and nature, not one or the other.
I spent a bit of time on your website, initially quickly, and then scrolling back through to discover and rediscover things in the collage that appeared and disappeared. Can you tell me a bit about your website as a work itself?
I love that you came back and took a closer look! It’s really exciting to design my website (which I do consider a work of art unto itself) as an experience, and one that is constantly dynamic, changing and demanding the viewer to reexamine what they feel they have already seen or understood.
Web design is all about clarity and consistency. I have tried to invert that mode of thinking to create a site that will inspire and create mystery rather than understanding. Perhaps my favorite thing about the website is it’s immateriality – it only exists in your mind. It can’t be sold or owned in any real way, it’s freely available.
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
I love to walk. I feel so much better after a half hour outside that I can generally brush off any funk that I was in just by getting out and moving around a bit. Also, I live in a gorgeous area of the Catskill Mountains, so the landscape is always inspiring.
What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?
I love the expressive qualities of painting and how they can be translated into digital and photo-based works. There’s something primal and deeply understood about how shapes move across a surface that can convey a feeling without any additional information. That has always amazed me.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
Time. The more time I can give to my artistic practice, the better the work becomes. This means time reading about art and artists that I admire, exploring the natural world around me, working in my studio, drawing, photographing, painting. It all is channeled into the work in one way or another, and it all takes time.
What keeps you creating?
I create to stay sane. When I’m not able to work, it becomes a problem really quickly and it manifests in different ways throughout my life. Creating is the thing that keeps me grounded and the thing that lifts me up. It’s my sustenance and my treat. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity.
What are you working on right now?
I’m really excited about the digital collages that I’ve been making over the past few months. They’re all photo-based and incorporate pieces of nature with paint strokes that I create and other materials that I’ve found online and in books. I think of them as landscapes and still lifes for the digital age.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m super into your idea of creating a place for artists that exists in space but isn’t beholden to it’s location. The way you have made a space that feels accessible and local but also really far-reaching is rad!
Find more at bryanmeador.com and on Instagram @bryanpaints!
+ + +
Like what you see? As an independent curatorial platform, this project can use your help! Pledge your support with a one-time donation. Check out current opportunities to get involved here!
Larry A. Burns,D.O. says
Interesting interview. Really like the new direction your art is taking.