Artist Statement Brooke Lanier March 2016
Whatever you spend a lot of time thinking about becomes important. Paying intense attention to overlooked details of the natural world elevates mundane things like the patterns of weeds and reflections of different conditions of water to a place that demands notice. Enlarging these often-ignored instances of intricate beauty and isolating them from the distractions of their normal surroundings draws attention to them.
There is so much to see that it is overwhelming trying to notice all of the little things that make a scene uniquely beautiful, even if it is just a pile of dead weeds. It is a matter of seeing, of noticing the relationships of color, light, and pattern that unlock the image. Part of it is a willingness to slow down.
Many of the paintings in this body of work contain conspicuously empty areas surrounded by areas of careful pattern and detail. The absences underscore the importance of what remains and vice versa. Traditional landscape paintings, which function as artificial windows into nature, are actually man-made interventions housed in constructed environments. The walls on which they hang might be in neighborhoods where weeds are the only plant life or there is no body of water for miles. It is therefore all the more necessary to appreciate the beauty of what vestiges of the natural world remain.
The appearance of water changes according to your vantage point. When you’re looking right down at it, you see the bottom, and the farther out, the more the water reflects everything else: the water quality itself, the color of the water, the turbulence, and everything all at the same time, and it all comes together in this pattern. Wherever you go in the world, water behaves in a reliable manner in terms of its patterns of movement and reflection.
Regardless of whether I’m painting plants or water, I’m always searching for relationships within the image that I might not have noticed. It is sort of a compulsion to make sense of something that seems impossibly complex and chaotic. If you stare at something long enough, the hope is that it will begin to make sense. Sometimes it happens during the making. I start to notice elements that line up in a certain way, and those things intersect with another line of logic such as a change in scale or a shift in color. Once I see the patterns, everything makes sense.
General Artist Statement:
Though my paintings address a wide variety of subject matter across various bodies of work, they are united by common tendencies: a search for the sublime as well as an appreciation for the beauty of subtle details.
The sublime as described by philosopher Immanuel Kant can be experienced through the expansive, vast simplicity that inspires a sense of quiet admiration, perhaps accompanied by melancholia. Beauty may be found things that inspire joy or delight, in intricate, small details. With these ideals in mind, I try to share experiences and places with my viewers which are meaningful to me. My paintings of landscapes and swimming pools are places to fill with your thoughts, to feel the comfort of being small compared with an expansive space.
As someone who grew up amidst forests and lakes, I feel a primal need to feel small against a big sky. It is restorative to go to a peaceful place and contemplate the beautiful subtlety of colors and patterns of light in water and plants and sky. I make paintings of my favorite places and find this evokes an empathetic response in that people “recognize” these locations as sites significant to their own biographies, even though the actual geographic locations are nowhere near each other.
Conversely, my paintings of brick walls leave you nothing to look at but that which is directly in front of your face. They are meditations on the details of the crumbling facades of the buildings in Philadelphia, the physical history of a place. These paintings are constructed in the same way the buildings are made, layer by layer. Mortar, brick, plaster, and paint are built up and scraped down to reveal the history of their making. They contain fragments and dust from derelict and demolished buildings of Fishtown, Kensington, and West Philly.
In a city where many people work in windowless offices and go home to neighborhoods where potential green space is covered in concrete, landscape paintings serve as artificial windows into places we’d rather be.
As an artist, I strive to create work that will encourage contemplation and greater awareness of mundane beauty. By paying close attention to details, they become important. By sharing them through art, viewers translate this mindfulness to their own lives.
Artist Statement for YOU ARE HERE: New Work by Brooke Lanier at Goldilocks Gallery
For her solo exhibition at Goldilocks Gallery, Lanier created a series of paintings that examine the history implied in the structures of dilapidated and abandoned buildings. Fishtown and Kensington are full of ghost houses, abandoned lots where condemned row homes were removed like rotten teeth. The exterior walls of the neighboring buildings retain evidence of the vanished structures: outlines of staircases and shelving where exposed brick peeks through plaster, the punctuation of holes which formerly cradled floor joists.
These walls are the only physical reminder that people lived and worked in these buildings that no longer exist. They have been painted and re-painted, first to reflect changes in interior decoration trends, later to cover graffiti. The paint is non-uniformly faded, the concrete and plaster falling off the façades in chunks, the mortar dissolving. Lanier emulates this process, painting each brick, then covering the masonry with layers of paint and wax, carving and scratching to reveal the layers underneath.
Lanier’s paintings of derelict buildings became more personal after an arsonist caught her apartment on fire twice in one night, displacing her. “YOU ARE HERE” features several paintings of scenes of the exterior of Lanier’s apartment after the fire. The scenes interpret a reality in which things that once had some purpose or sentimental significance have been transformed into semi-cubist chaotic piles of twisted rubble. The simplest shift of sunlight mutates the complicated shadows, causing the mind to recoil at the overabundance of visual information. Simplification is a survival skill in such circumstances.
Other paintings capture scenes of abandoned rooms, adding a sense of quiet intimacy to the exhibition. Whether the rooms depict sun in empty rooms or those crammed with forgotten detritus, there is a sense that something has happened here.
“YOU ARE HERE” combines structural meditations with studies in emotional resonance of the history of a place. Wherever you are, something has happened. Something is about to happen. You are here.
Artist Statement for Solitude and Solidarity: MFA Thesis Exhibition
Upon submersion, a swimmer enters a different world and becomes isolated and alone even when surrounded by others. My large immersive paintings depict this isolation by representing other individuals within the paintings as shadows and splashes, without ever showing actual bodies. These paintings echo the sentiments that philosopher Immanuel Kant expressed in his book Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime: “Deep loneliness is sublime, but in a way that stirs terror…. Its feeling is sometimes accompanied by a certain dread or melancholy; in some cases merely with quiet wonder; and in still others with a beauty completely pervading a sublime plan.”
As an adolescent, I was a devoted competitive swimmer. I attempted to attain athletic ideals and a sort of purification through physical exhaustion. Now, when I swim, I view it as a meditative experience in which I focus on appreciating the qualities of light and color underwater while contemplating the most efficient manner to propel myself. This drastic transformation in attitude is reflected in my most recent paintings about swimming. I began making paintings that were based on memories of being incredibly, embarrassingly behind in races, but the more recent paintings are meditative.
The large-scale paintings are accompanied by 12” x 12” pieces based on landmarks from pools such as turn targets and underwater lights. Removed from context they become more abstract and can take on various symbolic connotations projected onto them by individual viewers.
These paintings are as much about emotional resonance, memory, and how one interprets an experience as they are about the actual image. The paintings become spaces to fill with one’s thoughts, images that have as much to do with the lineage of color field painting as they do with competition: a place to repeat movements that may seem simple, but are actually complex, in a quest for transcendence.