INTERVIEW WITH AN ARTIST: LISA BRAWN
What kind of artwork do you make? Figurative woodcuts and paintings and scheming up alternative venues/ project spaces: Sugarmobile, Sugar Gallery, and with Milo Dlouhy, Sugar Estate, Portrait Estate, and The National Portrait Gallery Inc.
Where did you learn to paint/sculpt etc.? ACAD, about one or two thousand years ago when it was just ACBC. I would like to return one day wearing a small cap and plaid shortpants.
What path led you to the work you do now? At ACAD a few of us started The United Congress, which was a group interested in dadaist instigation, politics, intense productivity, anonymity and relentless propagandizing. Like a parasitic infestation within minutes we took over the newspaper, the halls, the lecture theatre, the ladders, the walls, the cafeteria, and we intimidated Ron Moppett until he gave us the Illingworth Kerr Gallery. That’s where I met Milo, pummelling Ron. We produced rapid-fire shows using video surveillance, nets, creamed marshmallow and red packing tape. Through Whitefield Senate and Richard Farand The United Congress has been covertly operating for 20 years in Vancouver, Reykjavik, and Osaka, but Portrait Estate recently detected weakness in the United Congress organization and made a hostile $2 billion takeover bid for their One Minute Happiness gallery on 17th avenue in the interest of creating an oligopoly.
In 1990 the printmaker and painter Diana Zasadny introduced me to woodcuts. I do not make prints from the woodcuts. I learned to paint by working in fossil restoration for 5 years and from sharing a studio with Richard Cole in the Zarges aluminum cases warehouse. We painted and carved and made a big mess and had shows and were desperately poor.
The start of the alternative venues obsession for me was in 2000 when I went looking for an ice cream truck to use as a mobile gallery and found a 1935 silver trailer that needed complete restoration. Two of the high points of sugarmobile were Joe Kelly’s Battleship Identifier, very kindly co-sponsored by Stride Gallery, and a show by Mireille Perron’s students at ACAD.
In November 2001 Sugar gallery opened in the Grain Exchange, where seven months of interdisciplinary events started with pseudo-craft production of World Wrestling cross-stitches. The gallery finale Sugar Smut Show involved 26 artists including Decidedly Jazz Danceworks choreographed by Kim Cooper and videos from Brian Batista and Shauna Kennedy. This megalomaniacal event received support from TRUCK. Thank you TRUCK!
In 2003 Milo Dlouhy of Estate gallery, Angie Inglis, and I opened Sugar Estate Art Salon and Museum of Oddities, which presented eighteen shows such as FIASCO, Festival of Wrongheadedness, Actual Existential Vacuum, and Patented Rotary Duplicator.
That is when Angie, Ryan Statz and I started a band, The Talentless Amateurs, and performed our “Scathing Revue”, beating Wax Mannequin in a Battle of the Bands at The New Gallery. Our tactic was to wear him down, and luckily after several hours he conceded defeat or we would still be there.
In 2008 the Bambi Media Machine, a new venue in a 1963 Airstream will start out on artmobile convoys with a Canadian Cultural Imperialism objective. Let me know if you have an artmobile, let’s all go!
What has been the biggest influence in your work? Mary Scott inflicted some corporal punishment on me back in the last century when that kind of thing was still legal. Don’t blame Mary, I deserved it.
Who is your favourite artist? I like Milo Dlouhy’s magic realism, Angela Inglis’ meditative forms of paper pulp that she sends through the band saw, there is a Swedish artist Camilla Engman, a Winnipeg artist Marcel Dzama, United Congress, there is Carol Taylor Lindoe, Joe Kelly, Jason deHaan, John Will, Chris Cran, Shelley Ouellet, Noel Bégin, Ryan Statz. There is a genius designer named Janine VanGool.
How long have you been at Art Central? Portrait Estate opened in June 2007
What do you like the most about working at Art Central? Seeing Milo Dlouhy every day, he is so pretty it’s unbelievable. UPPERCASE, Kari Woo, the skylight, palette americanos.
Besides creating art, what is your favourite thing to do? Travel: watching Hurricane Katrina pass the island of Eleuthera with Milo, rickshaw rides in Beijing, the silk market, getting burned on the Great Wall. Drinking Kir Royals and racing Tanya Dubnicoff on old bicycles in Limoux. Wondering how ALLthe pigeons lost their toes at Circular Quay, Sydney. I also like buying roadside candied salmon on the way to Nelson. It is frozen, but will thaw on the dashboard by the time you get there.
What is your favourite gallery in the world? Musée d’Orsay, The Frick, a very small Picasso museum in Lucerne that was a surprise. I would like to see the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, The American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, and The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. A few years ago I visited Albrecht Dürer’s house in Nuremberg and Museo Frida Kahlo, Casa Azul in Mexico City. They didn’t have any of her paintings but there was her wheelchair, mirrors, paintbrushes and garden. I stood in the studio listening to birds and bought a cafe con leche at the giftshop, that was misguided.
Besides Art Central, what is your favourite place in Calgary? My garage is nice, the walls are painted like a game show french art salon with Matisse stripes and cobalt blue diamonds, there is an old cowpoke pinball machine and fake fireplace. Confederation park has ducks, trees, hills. Centre street has lions. Janice Beaton has Brebiou pur Brebis. Caffe Beano, Bird Dog, Knox United, in Inglewood there is a place called Nectar.
What is your favourite book? Pinocchio in Venice – Robert Coover
If you were a celebrity, who would you be? Maybe Paris Hilton’s accessory dog Tinkerbell, Athenian Chihuahua author and six day kidnap victim, or… Margaret Young, sister of Angus, or Margaret Young’s famous sewing machine.