ART, INTERVIEW

Brianna Angelakis: Force of Nature

0 Comments 31 March 2014

brianna angelakis art

Feature on Florida artist Brianna Angelakis and her upcoming solo show at The Modern Eden Gallery.

By Daniel Barron

 

 

In the bio for Florida-based artist Brianna Angelakis she describes of her work: “I juxtapose the female figure with the wildness of nature to convey a sense of female power.”  Indeed the striking figures that populate her oil compositions appear untethered by the laws of time or reality, at once Romantic yet thoroughly modern.  Their faces may bear heavy weight, yet their sorrow is not attendant with weakness.  Instead, their inner struggles take on an elemental quality, a phenomenon as untameable as the skies or the sea.  Hear them roar.

Angelakis is something of an element, herself, with her first solo show opening May 10th at San Francisco’s Modern Eden Gallery.  Not bad for an English major who only graduated from college a year ago.  In the following interview we talk about the inspiration behind the exhibition, what it means to be a feminist, and the books you need to be reading.

 

brianna angelakis art

 

How did your solo show come together? Was it something that you had been discussing for awhile?  Did the gallery approach you?  How did it start?

The Modern Eden Gallery approached me last summer.  I got an e-mail from  Kim [Larson], she’s a sweetheart. I was really excited, and I was 100% onboard.  It’s my very first solo show so it’s really exciting.  I had just graduated from my undergrad so it’s kind of unreal to have my first solo show opportunity in San Francisco right after graduating.  It’s very surreal.  It’s awesome. 

 

It’s a monumental achievement.  I understand you were an artist at a very early age.  I read you won an art competition at age seven.

Oh yeah, it was a coloring competition and I won.  I think I was seven or eight.  And I won another competition that was in Peabody, Massachusetts (my home town), it was just elementary school kids, I think maybe up to middle school.  So I’ve been doing art forever, pretty much. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

Do you remember what the first things you were drawing were?  For me it was Marvel superheroes. Spider-Man, The Hulk…

Sailor Moon is still a huge part of my life.  I love Sailor Moon.  I’ve drawn Sailor Moon since I was really little, and I absolutely love Disney so I would make Disney characters, too.  I would spend a lot of time drawing The Little Mermaid and Belle and all of the Disney princesses.

 

You were an English major in college.  Why did you choose to go with English instead of art?

Well, I always did art all through high school.  I actually got college credit for it which was great.  But I think it came from a fear of surviving in fine art, and I’ve always done really well in English.  When I went to college I decided to minor in illustration and major in English, and then it was at the end of my junior year of college that I decided to double major in fine art and English.  At the beginning of my junior year I took my first painting class and we had to use oils. Previously I had only used acrylics.  In high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to use oils. So when I took painting in college, I had to learn all of the techniques from scratch, it’s really, really different.  And I was really terrible.  It was the first time that I wasn’t one of the best in my class.  I was really mediocre and I wasn’t happy with that.  I would spend hours after class using oil paints and eventually I started to understand it better.  That was in September of 2011.  It was my first time using oil paints. It was in May of 2012 that I decided to double major in fine art and I realized that I was getting a lot better at oil paint and that I was thoroughly enjoying it.  There was a ton of experimenting. And it’s because of my English major that I started combining my own analysis of literature into my paintings so I think that it kind of worked really well double majoring and combining the two, and I’m doing that now with fairy tales for my solo show. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

Your solo show is themed around fairy tales?

Yes, it’s centered around fairy tales and I decided to bring in contemporary elements, so it’s kind of like my own interpretation.  They have more of a modern feel.  I have a big painting that I did and actually the girl that modeled for it was wearing her prom dress so that’s as contemporary as it gets.  And then I have my Little Red Riding Hood wearing a hoodie. I mean, there are some that kind of stand closer to the traditional fairy tales than others.  But overall, you can see contemporary elements in all of them.  I wanted to add my own little touch rather than just doing fairy tales as we know them. 

 

Brianna Angelakis art

 

Your style certainly seems to evoke more of the classic Grimm fairy tales incarnations, the ones that had more of a sense of melancholy about them.  You spoken a lot about being a feminist and celebrating female empowerment in your work, but your women always seem so sad to me.

Have you seen my falling women paintings? The series is titled, “Wonders of the Invisible World.”  Those were inspired by a piece of feminist literature, the novel, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, which is one of my favorite books of all time. At the end of her novel, the female protagonist commits suicide, which sounds really terrible, but it’s her way of escaping from patriarchal society. I mean, these women didn’t get to do anything, they just sat around in their houses, you know?  They needed to escape. They couldn’t get their own job or have their own life other than just getting married and having children.  So I also wanted to combine that with the idea of the fallen woman, a common archetype in literature in general.  I mean, Eve from The Bible is the number one fallen woman of all time- she’s responsible for the damnation of mankind.  In literature, women become pregnant with someone else’s child or they become impure in some way causing them to become a fallen woman.  And so I wanted to combine those ideas and literally make these women fall from the sky.  There are also other little elements such as the lighthouse, which is a very phallic symbol, and the idea of the lighthouse light and it’s always watching as a representation of patriarchal society…so…a lot of my earlier work was a lot more melancholy, I think.  I think a lot of the paintings for this show hit much more of a positive note.  They’re empowering females but in a different way than my fallen women paintings.

 

brianna angelakis art

Self-portrait

 

What kind of models do you use?  Friends?  Actresses? How do you direct them?

The models are always my friends.  They’re wonderful.  A lot of times I have somewhat of an idea of what I want them to do, a lot of times I’ll let them do what makes them feel comfortable.  It’s mostly about them being amazing models and me getting up on stools and taking photographs of them from an aerial view.

 

It’s not a something for nothing prospect.  Who wouldn’t want to be immortalized, especially by someone of you level of skill?  Now, I’ve seen a few self-portraits you’ve done.  What’s the unique challenge inherent to interpreting yourself?  Are you drawing yourself or are you playing a character most of the time?

That’s a very good question.  When I reach for a likeness with my friends people will go, “Hey, that’s Gaby!” or “Hey, that’s Victoria!” and they’ll know, but when you’re doing a painting of yourself it’s very different.  Whenever I do a self-portrait of myself I actually photograph myself prior so it’s like I’m doing a Facebook photo, trying to figure out the lighting, how to find the right pose, it’s very awkward.  For the show I did a piece where I’m Snow White, and definitely in that case I took on a persona.  It’s very difficult painting self-portraits- you really want to successfully reach your own likeness.

 

brianna angelakis art

 

I’m intrigued by a quote from your artist bio, “I juxtapose the female figure with the wildness of nature to convey a sense of female power.”  Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?

With a lot of my previous paintings, I play with weather and elements of the natural world.  And the reason I do that goes back to literature.  I love the Bronte sisters. In Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, a huge theme of both of those books is the reflection of the characters’ emotions through the weather.  There’s lightning or it’s snowing to reflect how they feel. I wanted to create that same juxtaposition in my paintings.

 

When I referred to you as a “feminist” earlier did that feel like a box to be put in or is it a title you wear proudly?  What does that word mean to you?

I’m totally cool with it because that’s what I am.  I think the word has become a dirty word and I’m not really sure why.  I think people misunderstand it.  “Women want to take over!”  That’s not what it is.  All feminism is about is believing in equality, whether it’s gender equality or racial equality or whatever.  It’s focused on women getting equal rights and equal pay and things like that.  So I don’t feel like I’m being put in a box at all I think it’s exactly who I am.  I wish the word would be used more positively instead of being associated with “feminazis” or whatever, because it’s just something that people completely misunderstand. 

 

brianna angelakis

 

Were those values instilled in you by one or both of your parents?  Was it something you discovered through literature?  Where do you think that sense of righteousness came from?

Certainly my parents are all about equality.  My mom, in particular.  Before I was even born, she opened up her own bridal business and she told me she knew lot of people that weren’t 100% with her.  She had my older sister and me and they said, “Oh, well what are you going to do with your business now?”  She did both.  She was a mom and she owned her own bridal business.  For me, that’s really, really inspiring, and my dad was there 110% to back her up.  He had his own job.  So my parents were a big part of that, especially my mom.  She’s a bad bitch. And getting older and going to college was a large part as well, not only through English but the art history courses too.

 

Do you have a strong sense of the narrative behind your paintings or is that kind of loose even for you?

I guess it depends on the painting.  There are some where the idea is really thought out, where I play with symbolism a lot, and then there are some that are more experimental.   I don’t want to say the narrative is lost, but it becomes more about the viewer’s interpretation.  In the end, it’s what other people see and take away from it.  Not to say what the artist intends isn’t important, because it definitely is.  But in the end, it’s the observer who makes that decision, whether they are able to pull a narrative out of it or not.  These paintings for my solo show- since they’re based off of fairy tales I think that people will undoubtedly be able to see that narrative.  For most of my paintings in general, I try to have some kind of a narrative, for the most part. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

What are some common observations that you hear about your work?

The big difference that I’ve noticed with this new series is that my friends and family are commenting on my colorful choices and positive subjects.  With my more melancholy previous work, a lot of people didn’t understand they were inspired by literature. I would have to explain it to them until they would realize, “Oh, they’re inspired by books!”  With this new body of work, my fairy tale paintings, it’s much brighter and definitely hits a more positive note.  With my Alice in Wonderland painting from last summer, a lot of people misunderstood that painting, as well.  Not many, but I got a few comments where people thought it was drug-related because it was a painting inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – but that wasn’t what I had intended at all. It was much more innocent than that.  But I’m really excited about seeing people’s reactions to my new paintings after they’re released to the public. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

Do you write recreationally?  Essays?  Short stories?  Poetry?

Not so much recently.  I used to do a lot of creative writing and stuff in high school and my freshmen year of college, but really art has been my go-to outlet ever since I was little. After being an English major, I’ve become much more of an analytical writer. I really enjoy analyzing literature, researching, and writing essays. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to physically sit and read a book because of my work schedule, so when I’m painting I’m usually listening to an audiobook. Even when I’m listening to an audiobook, I’m analyzing it in my head and picking up on all of the themes while thinking, “Wow, this would be great to write a paper on!” I don’t really have the time, anymore, to do any creative writing.  All of my creative energy is spent planning the next painting. 

 

You seem like you have a tremendous work ethic.

I’m painting between the hours of 11am – 9pm, with breaks for lunch, dinner, and snacks.  I don’t really have time to spend outside of my studio. Especially in college, I never went out with friends, but I think that it’s part of the art life, but when you really, really want something- and this is something that I really, really want more than anything- you’re willing to give up a social life.  This is what I want to do.  So it’s very time-consuming but whenever I’m out I’m thinking about painting. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

What are some of the writers who have influenced your style and sensibility the most?

Definitely Kate Chopin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Brontes. Charlotte Bronte, in particular, I adore. A couple of my favorite poets are Shakespeare and Joan Keats.  I love Amy Tan, she’s a contemporary writer.  I haven’t really done anything in particular that’s inspired by her work but I definitely know that it’s going to happen in the future.  Her most well-known book is probably The Joy Luck Club.  I could probably go on forever, I just love to read.  I love Jane Austen, there ya go!  My final thesis for my English undergrad was all about Jane Austen’s works. 

 

What are you reading right now?  Do you have any recommendations for me and the Yay! LA readers?

I just finished listening to an audiobook of The Fault in Our Stars.  It’s about a girl who has cancer.  The book was amazing and the acting was fantastic, too, whoever the actress was that read the book.  It brought me to tears a few times when I was listening to it.  I finished listening to the third Game of Thrones book.  I love Game of Thrones.  I’m trying to slowly progress through all of the books along with the TV show since I don’t want to get ahead of myself too much.  They’re really long.  The audiobooks are like sixty hours.  Oh!  I also read Gone With the Wind for the first time. Anyone who hasn’t read Gone with the Wind, hasn’t lived. 

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis

 

 

Selections from the “Fairy Tales” show…

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

brianna angelakis art

 

 

Check out Brianna’s solo show when it opens at the Modern Eden Gallery in May.

View more Brianna Angelakis artwork and keep updated on future gallery showings on her website.

Follow Brianna Angelakis: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

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- who has written 407 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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