Ghostly, translucent furniture floats amidst colorful forests. Place, time, landscape, and memory all converge using a range of visual art techniques.
It’s the work of Prilla Smith Brackett, whose solo show Promises to Keep: Monoprints is at the Bromfield Gallery in Boston, through December 1, 2012. The opening reception is tonight, Friday, November 2, 6-8:30 PM.
We asked the artist about her “voice” and her work probing memory, family, forests, and furniture.
Your voice as a visual artist is truly distinctive. What draws you to imagery of furniture and forests?
Forests have interested me for a long time. For example, As a child I enjoyed camping and messing around on forested land my father owned, now part of a land trust. In the late 1990’s I did a large project juxtaposing urban trees with those in remote old growth northern New England forests, suggesting the negative impact of human activity on both locations. Memory and its elusive qualities was also a theme, which I carried into subsequent work, especially work about losing an old family house that had been in my family for 90 years. Later I decided I wanted to return to forests and explore incorporating semi-transparent images of old furniture from that house. The journey has been fruitful and fun.
What artist do you most admire but work nothing like?
Pierre Bonnard and Joan Mitchell, his amazing color combinations, her dynamic energy and color.
What’s the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever received?
In an open studios early in this body of work a woman said my work reminded her of when she was a young girl. She lived near a grove of European Beech trees in Brookline. She loved those trees and would sneak out of the house at night to sleep under them. She set her alarm clock so she could go back to her bed inside before her parents woke up. I loved her response, her memory.
Like, what does your work MEAN?
Old growth forests show the whole life cycle of trees and nature’s violence. The domestic in such settings seems jarring, although our traditions see forests as places of make-believe, of solace & spirituality, of refuge & hidden secrets. But in the dreams of old furniture made of forest wood might there also be dark scenes of family discord? Do these disparate domestic & natural elements resolve shared conflict to arrive at peace? Meaning comes from responding to the narrative uncertainty in these pieces, and from allowing memory and imagination to wander.
In a paint ball battle between artists and curators, who wins?
Artists can make more of a mess.
If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
A magic marker.
How do you know when your work is done?
When there is nothing more I feel I need to change or do.
Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall?
What are you currently reading?
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, for my women artists’ reading group.
Promises to Keep: Monoprints by Prilla Smith Brackett exhibits at Bromfield Gallery through December 1, 2012.
Prilla Smith Brackett, a Boston artist, has exhibited at institutions including the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the Art Complex Museum, and the Portland Museum of Art. She received a 2012 Finalist Award in painting from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Other awards include a fellowship at the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, and residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.
Images: all by Prilla Smith Brackett; WELLSPRING #7 (2012), Woodcut, pronto plate on Kizuki Kozo paper, 22×20 in; FAMILY PATTERNS #13 (2011) drawing materials, oil, acrylic on 6 panels, 96×108 in; NIGHT PIECES #11 (2011) oil, acrylic on panel, 12×12 in; PLACES IN THE HEART #22 (2010) oil, acrylic, pen on panel, 48×36 in.
Lisa Nilsson says
Strong, beautiful, evocative work. Smart, interesting and amusing interview questions.
Thanks for the inspiring post, ArtSake!
Candy Nartonis says
This work is powerful and subtle. The interview is telling and fun. Great work all around!
Suzanne Hodes says
Excellent interview! I love the story about the girl in Brookline sneaking out to be under those great beech trees.