Who controls the visual imagery that we are bombarded with everyday? When do ideas, whether fully materialized or premature whispers of things to come, become ownable? In her solo show “Eat The Youth! & send me a pic…” Amy Hughes Braden explores these questions through mixed media paintings and collages. Braden renders her subjects using paint, pencils, magazine cutouts, inkjet prints, and markers. This heavy layering, built of abstract painterly forms mixed with easily recognizable and sometimes iconic imagery, leaves the viewer with an unsettling bewilderment of the contemporary circumstance, as well as a questioning of western concepts of reproduction and ownership. Arte Fuse caught up with Braden to ask her a few questions about the work:
AF: We’ve learned that you collaborated in two of these pieces with your brother; could you elaborate on that?
Braden: I’m currently obsessed with the concept of collaborative art-making. Initially with Aaron I didn’t so much collaborate, as straight up steal some of his pieces and begin my own work right on top. I’m fascinated by the idea of ownership and artists working upon other artists work in both the literal and metaphorical sense. I think my desire stems in part from a longing to truly connect with other humans: a feat that is becoming increasingly difficult. The fact that Aaron is my brother only means that our relationship allows me to comfortably take his work and begin working on it myself. If and when he’s upset…he gets over it because he has to. I have moved forward with him and my other brother Adam to consensually work together on pieces. I catch myself doing this all the time though; my husband is a musician and I’ll grab concert posters he’s working on and just start painting into them. I’m just as excited about the inverse as well, I don’t hold my own work too tightly. I had an inspiring experience this summer when I met another artist, [Brooklyn-based] Lauren Carly Shaw and we collaboratively made a series of works on paper. Basically, I want to collaborate with everyone.
AF: So we know you are tackling questions of ownership and reproduction, does your work seek to influence people in a certain direction regarding the issue?
Braden: I want us to question what we’re told is reality, especially as we move further away from real interaction. We care about the photo of the time we share more than the time itself. I also wish people would be more authentic in general…I’m sick of hashtag humor… for example, regarding death and dying. I used images of my deceased uncle in a number of the pieces in the show in part to say “we can talk about this,” instead of just making sarcastic or nervous comments back and forth. I get so bored when people try to be “most clever.” I am straightforward to a fault and I am also guilty of ignoring real life humans when my phone buzzes at me.
AF: What about copyrighting specifically?
Braden: I remember sitting in professional practices class and hearing students anxiously discuss copyrighting. They were very concerned about their work being stolen. I’ve also heard people discuss trademarking a particular style, although you can’t technically do that. I just think…why would you want to do that? I’m not into hoarding ideas. All art movements are reactions anyway. Besides that, the internet is impossible to control. I consider everything fair game, especially because I’m fully aware that everything I do is up for grabs too. Maybe I’m just a nihilist when it comes to art-making and ownership. How can I try to control something with the internet; and even if I could, shouldn’t these ideas belong to everybody?
The show is up through December 14 at Founders Hall Gallery in Arlington, VA.
See www.amyhughesbraden.com for more info
Article and Photos by Jessica Speckhard