Brynn Dizack’s painstaking artistic process is achieved through mindful repetition and casting, resulting in work that unearths what matters most. We caught up with Brynn as she prepares for her first solo show CANIS MAJOR, at the Nesto Gallery at Milton Academy.
The largest-scale ongoing project in my studio these days is titled madeline, and will consist of 2,280 cast cement bottles when completed. The bottles are displayed in a somewhat reticulated arrangement on the floor, and move out into the space organically. The piece is ongoing, and still in progress; I started casting in the summer of 2012. I hope to have completed at least 1,000 bottles for a solo exhibition in February of 2013, but the piece will not be officially completed until I reach the full 2,280.
It took at least a year of thinking about this piece before I could even make the first prototypes. Like most of my work, I knew I wanted to utilize minimal, corporeal materials. I wanted the work to speak clearly and unabashedly of addiction, and burden, and weight. For this reason, I did not dye the cement or add any additional details. I wanted the purity of the material to lend itself to the purity of a reactionary feeling.
As I started casting the bottles in larger numbers, I became familiar with the intricacies of cement. It was like any relationship: neither of us were perfect, but our temperaments evened each other out. There are things about cement that will not change (price, color, size of aggregate) and things about it that can be coaxed (amount of water added, strength of casting based on setting time, and how to remove air bubbles). I learned these traits slowly through mistakes and successes, and noticed how they mirrored my own rigidities and soft spots. Over the course of the last few months, I have come to appreciate the undeniable humanness and duality of concrete. Its final form conveys brutality, coldness, unfamiliarity, anonymousness; but through its life cycle, it is malleable, capricious, and impressionable, sloppy, uneven, and co-dependent.
I can make about 40 bottles with one 60-lb bag of cement. Working alone, I can get through a bag in about 3-4 hours. I’ve certainly called upon friends to come into the studio to help with casting. People tell me they really enjoy the complete departure into repetitive objectmaking. This reinforces my belief that there is something very inherent and visceral about repetition.
The castings have to set for about a week before the glass bottles can be broken off. To break glass, I put on a full-face soldering shield and a respirator to protect myself from flying glass shards and any dust that is released from concrete residue on the outside of the bottles. I use a standard claw hammer to smash the glass, and a car snow brush to clear away lingering debris on the castings. The necks of the bottles are always the weakest parts, and at least 40% of the castings snap in the process and need to be repaired.
I use a mixture of sugar, meringue powder, and water (think: Day of the Dead sugar skulls) to fill large cracks or cavities and other imperfections in the castings. When wet, the sugar compound molds to empty cavities, but is very fickle and cannot hold as a freestanding shape. When it dries, it hardens with amazing strength into place, but is still susceptible to water, air, and time. To me, the sugar carries a host of signifiers: white, pure, sweet, fragile. It juxtaposes the industrial strength and color of concrete, and reads like a partner with the best and most naïve of intentions, whose efforts, over time, are not sustainable.
CANIS MAJOR, New Works by Brynn Dizack
Nesto Gallery, Milton Academy, February 15 – March 15, 2013
Opening Reception: February 15th from 6-8PM
Gallery hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Image credit: All images courtesy of Brynn Dizack.