Updated: Dec 9, 2020
This week we are exploring the art practice of Brandi Spering who will talk to us about her shifting practice and the use of recycling materials.
Can you briefly describe your art practice?
My practice shifts, as I experiment with different forms. In terms of content, my work tends to mimic my surroundings like an archive. Everything I do is process-oriented, especially when working with recycled material. As much as I can try to plan, an image might shape itself clearer than what I loosely intended. Some of my favourite pieces have been happy accidents, born while using up the last bit of paint before it dries.
Is there a piece of art that you have created that you do not like? Why? Regardless of skill level, I refuse to believe anyone has the ability to create a masterpiece each time they attempt their craft. Perhaps I am associating likeness with the wrong things; appreciation shouldn’t require perfection, but I have a hard time settling when I know I made a mistake. I recently painted a picture of a small street in Philly, taking my time to detail each row home. However, I rushed through the streetlights, making them disproportionate to everything else, resembling worn-out hockey sticks. Despite loving the painting before I made the mistake, I couldn’t bring myself to continue working on it. It was too far gone, but I’ll try again and from the beginning, in a few more months.
What do you mean by describing your art practice as constantly shifting? My art practice shifts as my intentions do; the content, medium, or structure of a project will change if it is a gift, for example. For a while, making presents with a specific recipient in mind, was my only driving force to create. My background is in writing and it wasn’t until the last few years that I have taken my art more seriously, deciding to focus on painting, sewing and collaging. Before that point, I hopped from medium to medium but without proper attention to each form, there was no progression. It became difficult to maintain it all. Because of this, I struggle with giving myself validation as an artist. I make art to decompress, so I have rarely conceptualized it. In hindsight, it’s obvious that memory plays a role in my art the way it does in my writing, as I draw from everyday life and use these art processes as a way to process life.
Brandi Spering, Flight, Recycled Paper, 2018
What is your favourite thing about art making? Why? Visual art is therapeutic; the act of weaving a needle through fabric or moving a paint brush across paper can be meditative. I get very restless and anxious, so it calms me down to have something to do with my hands. To be able to create art is to be resourceful, to have a means and a method of self-expression, to have a tool and a space to speak, in a sense. I also love being able to form something out of nothing. As a child, I always hated asking for things that I wanted, so I would do my best to make them myself. Art always seemed like a safe space to experiment, especially because it can be subjective. All in all, art is simply, pure fun.
How much importance do you give to titling your artwork? I try not to give too much importance to titling my artwork because I’m not very good at it. I know they are necessary and can be crucial in peaking one’s interest, but if I give the title a lot of weight, it adds pressure. If I overthink it, my chances of coming up with a good tile decrease exponentially. I always wait until after a work is finished to decide what its name should be—I do the same with writing.
Brandi Spering, Except from Fuss, acrylic paint and markers on sketch paper, 2019
What projects have you recently completed? I am in the process of publishing my first book, This I Can Tell You, with Perennial Press. It is a poetic narrative that deals with the fragility of memory and the secrecy maintained within a family like a well-groomed dog. New projects are on hold for a little, but I am still chipping away at on-going projects from time-to-time. I did finish a few pages of my visual chapbook, Fuss, which combines painting and poetry through the theme of inner turmoil. The poetry was written first, without the intention of adding art. I decided to combine mediums in attempts to dedicate more time to both.
Brandi Spering, Edit Me, Silkscreen, Acrylic paint on Stonehenge paper, 2016
Are there any particular artists that have inspired your art practice? One of the ways I became reacquainted with art, was through making artist books. Anne Carson’s Nox was a huge inspiration, from the book itself to the collage and archival work. Another artist, Wangechi Muti, has influence my collage work but also my writing—particularly her exhibit, A Fantastic Journey (Brooklyn Museum, 2013). I love the texture in David Lynch’s mixed media paintings, the imaginative and colourful essence of Lily McNeil’s digital illustrations, and the depth of Caitlin Peck’s art. The list can go on…
Many of your artworks make use of collage. Why do you choose this process to work with? I think I began working with collage when I took an art therapy class in college. One project required materials we came across in public, anything discarded or given, but not bought. This concept came up in a few classes, making it impossible to not consider multiple and unconventional uses for everyday objects. It stuck. I think of collage like erasure, in the way that you are using content—whether it’s words or pictures—that already exist, manipulating them into something new. Collage is accessible. You can use anything you find. I once cut up a pasta box to substitute red paint. It is also difficult for me to have any sort of expectation because I don’t know where a collage will take me. Any outcome is welcome.
How have you adapted to creating art during a global pandemic and can you give any tips to other artists?
Well, for starters, I have long stopped working with materials I find in public. I am struggling to create art during the pandemic because there do not seem to be enough hours in the day. Despite not having to commute to work anymore, I find myself with less time as my hours blur together faster. My advice for myself and others is to do your best to develop a routine to continue your practice, even if it is in short intervals. It nurtures our ability to keep the wheels turning. Also, as much as I would love to stay away from social media, it is a way to connect with other artists. I am grateful to see others creating, as it inspires me—not quite in the way that in-person communities normally would, but it’s better than nothing.
Brandi Spering, Ruminate, watercolour & acrylic paints, & pen on mixed media paper, 2018
What type of ideas are you hoping to present through your artwork? I’m sure it will change over time, but so far, my work—both art and writing—tend to rely on memory, perception and reflection. There is still so much need for development. Right now, my goal is to create things that are fun to look at. To enjoy myself. To vent to every medium. To learn.
A message from the artist.
More of my work can be found at brandispering.com
If you would like to read my book, stay tuned in with perennial-press.com
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.