Mark Brasuell and I meet at the French Press, a good coffee house located southwest Aurora.
May I ask your age?
I just turned 50.
Can you tell us a bit about your earlier years?
I am from a small town in the West Texas panhandle called Roscoe. The nearest larger cities are Lubbock and Midland. I hated growing up there. The town was bigoted and homophobic.
'Homophobic...' When did you know you were Gay?
By the time I was 5 or 6 I was aware. I was never in denial. Fortunately my parents were accepting. They belonged to the Church of Christ, and they were very religious people. My parents were Christian in the best (and truest) sense of the word. Roscoe was very oppressive. It was not a great place to grow up Gay.
How did this exposure to religion influence you?
It can't say it did. I know the Bible fairly well, perhaps too much for my own good. Early on I thought of myself as an atheist. Now I see myself as a Pagan. Definitely I am not inclined toward monotheism.
When were you first exposed to art?
My mother sent me to a teacher for private lessons starting when I was 9 - there were no art classes in my school. I excelled in art, and eventually I learned how to teach, which I started to do at 14 in a local art shop. I taught other women how to do landscapes. At home I had my own studio where I painted. I have been teaching and making art since then.
Through my middle and high school years we would periodically engage in an educational exercise that was called "Picture Memory". The exercise utilized flashcards which had to be identified. In Roscoe and West Texas, there was a lot of Western Art, figurative art. Seeing these cards bearing images of the art of Polllock and Rothko was a revelation. I kind of knew I wanted to be involved in art; seeing these cards with this art, seeing this type of art opened the doors for me. I knew I wanted to be an artist.
After high school I went to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. My major was art, and my primary focus was painting and drawing. I explored all kinds of painting. My work was largely abstract, yet there was always a figurative aspect to it. Living in Lubbock was also a good thing. There was a more freeing atmosphere.
When I completed college I wanted to continue my formal study of art. I chose to study in Denver because I loved the mountains and skiing. Also, I wanted to live in a place that had four distinct seasons. I was accepted into Boulder and the University of Denver (D.U.). I chose D.U. because the program was new, it was smaller and I thought I would receive more attention.
What was your focus of study at D.U.?
My masters was in sculpture and intermedia art. The intermedia program basically allowed the student to study all kinds of art; from poetry and dance to music, and so forth. You developed ways of incorporating these other art forms with your primary investigations into sculpture and painting. Installation became very important to me.
Toward the close of my studies at D.U., I entered an art contest and created an installation. One of the jurors was Ken Peterson. Ken had a commercial gallery at the time. It was called Edge and was located at 27th and Larimer. Ken invited me to be a part of his gallery. The installation I developed for the contest was awarded "Best of Denver" by Westword.
You have had a long association with Edge...
Soon after I joined Edge it transformed itself from a commercial gallery to a co-operative. For over 20 years I was a member of the co-op, and I was president of the gallery, off and on, for many of those years. I have always felt comfortable in co-ops because there are far fewer constraints on the type of work you can create.
How would you characterize yourself as an artist?
I consider myself to be an experimental artist. I like doing art that doesn't look like the other work I have created. It is important to have a consistent body of work. One can have that and also experiment. Your work can be linked by an outlook or attitude. I greatly admire David Hockney because his work also shifts quite a bit, yet is also distinctly his.
At times my work was quite conceptual. In one exhibit at Grant Street, I juxtaposed quotations from the Bible with personal ads from Gay newspapers. This exhibit also included abstract sculpture built from wood. In 1996 I had an exhibit of abstract paintings at Edge called "Closet Painter". Usually my work had figurative aspects. A friend of mine questioned the work, asking me why I needed those figurative elements. It was a good question. With the abstract work at Edge it felt as if such a burden had been lifted...
Do you have any final thoughts?
People often think art has to mean something, and it can only mean something when there are figures in the art. I don't agree with this. I like art that is provocative. Usually in an exhibit, at least once, someone will tell me how bad my work is. That's OK. A consistent body of work is what is important. One ought not to be afraid to be criticized, and it is good to be honest and direct.
It seems futile to have specific expectations of a spectator. If I tell people too much it seems to scare them off. My work has meaning, however that is for me. People receive whatever they are able to receive.
Interview with Deborah Bryon, January 19, 2015
Editor's Note: This is the second interview with Deborah Bryon. The first interview occurred on February 10, 2014. At that time Ms. Bryon answered introductory questions germane to that interview. That interview can be accessed in the blog archives. This interview will focus on the work in Ms. Bryon's upcoming exhibition of art at Spark gallery.
Due to time constraints and Deborah's recent auto accident, she suggests that we conduct this interview via Skype. Why not...
Please tell me about the work in this show.
As you know, I was recently in a car accident. The work in this show is connected to that experience.
Before we delve into the work, can you tell us a bit about the accident and your current condition?
Briefly, my husband Perry and I were on I-70 driving toward Utah to attend a retreat that I had spent a year coordinating to bring Andean medicine people (shamans) here to teach.. At a construction site near the highway a truck abruptly pulled onto the road resulting in a multi-car series of collisions. I suffered a cracked sternum, broken ankle, minor concussion and various sprains. I WAS TOLD BY THE STATE PATROL THAT I am lucky to be alive. Perry is OK. The car was totaled.
You were on your way to a retreat?
Yes. This was a retreat I had been organizing for many months. Two Shamans, Paqos (pronounced 'pakos') from Peru would be presenting aspects of Andean indigenous medicine, ritual and practice, to approximately 45 people. We were headed to a remote and beautiful and, I think, sacred location in Utah. The Paqos were also driving up, fortunately in another car. The accident banged me up however we continued onward in another car to conduct the retreat.
Your work in the exhibition is related to this accident?
The art in this show blends several strands of my life. One aspect is directly connected to the accident. My work is often inspired by events that are prominent in my immediate life. This accident certainly is that event.
Also, for awhile I have been interested in the Bay Area artists and their use of color. The color is vivid and often used to create connections and relationships within a work of art dependent on lighting and context. Some of the artists I'm referring to are Nathan Oliviera, Elmer Bishoff, and David Parks.
An important part of the Paqos teaching is to be attentive to the relationships that exist between ourselves and the varied aspects of the natural world; the landscape, and the infinite aspects of that landscape, the trees, the rocks, etc. In the work of the Bay area painters, I am drawn to their use of color and how it creates relationships between seemingly disparate elements in a painting.
All of this was brought to bear as I explored the accident and the recovery afterwards.
Is the work in some ways connected to your practice as a Jungian Analyst?
As an analyst I often ask my clients to either find or create imagery in the processes of discovery and healing. The work in this show is also about this personal process of healing. The images for the paintings was based on dreams (such as "Elephant Spirit"), as well as automatic images and gestures percolating up from deep within. Perry encouraged me to explore the actual accident itself. That was the genesis of the painting "Impact". The show presents an aspect of my healing process.
Tell us about the paintings, please.
In this work I used acrylic paint as opposed to oils. I wasn’t walking when I started this body of work and I wanted to work with a “cleaner” medium. There simply wasn't the time for oils and for these paintings acrylic seemed right. I would keep the paint wet when necessary by spraying the palette. The fast cure of acrylics allowed me to build layers of color, and work with more spontaneity.
The work here is full of self-disclosure. There are self-portraits, paintings that are quite representational. Usually my paintings are far more abstract, though in my case my abstract work is always driven by a curiosity to explore a specific emotion, energy states. I am not sure if I am as comfortable with art that is so self-referential, as this art might be. Still, it seemed necessary to create it.