Fine Art Painter: Brett Amory

Fine Art Painter: Brett Amory


[Brett] Hello. [Audience member] Hey Brett! [Brett] Thank you all for coming. I’m Brett Amory. And this is my lecture. I have a lot of slides and it might go long, so if you guys are getting bored or tired,
just let me know and I’ll speed it up. So I’m an artist living in East Oakland,
out by the Coliseum. I lived in San Francisco — ’97 till 2009
and then moved to the East Bay, to get more space. Can’t really have space living in the city. I graduated from the Academy in 2005. Took me ten years to get through a four-year program. I started as a Motion Picture major, then Illustration — or no — Animation, then Illustration, then Fine Art. Let’s see, I — I didn’t grow up making art. I did early on, and then I started skateboarding
when I was about ten and that took control over my life. From ten to about twenty-one,
it was skateboarding and playing music. I moved out here to study film
because I always had a video camera
and I would shoot my friends — film my friends skateboarding
and snowboarding, whatever. I sort of fell into art when I got here. The people I was skateboarding with
and playing music with were artists themselves and inspired me to start trying it. I wasn’t that good in the beginning. I failed my first Analysis of Form class. Took it again — I almost failed it twice. When I switched over to Animation, I had to — Animation students have to take
figure drawing classes, and I remember my teacher
pulled me aside one day and told me I was the worst student in the class
and I had to go to workshops, and that was what changed everything. So I started going to one workshop a week,
then two, then three — I don’t know if this is the same now,
but the workshops when I was in — from ’97 to about 2004,
the workshops were happening. That was where all
the most serious students were at. And there was a certain bar
that was placed in the workshops. So I started going to them once a week,
twice a week, three times a week, then every day. And once I started going every day,
I started enjoying it. And once I started enjoying it,
I started getting better at drawing. I did that for about three years —
just every day in the workshops. And then when I turned twenty-four,
I started painting. Painting was — drawing was a real struggle for me, it still is — but painting came a little bit more naturally. I think it’s because you work with form
rather than line. So I gravitated towards painting
more so than drawing. And switched over to Fine Art. So if people know who I am, know my work — they know me for the Waiting Series. The Waiting Series I started in 2001, when I was — I quit going to school for a year
because I was working in Emeryville — at a software company
doing help desk IT — basic IT stuff. And when I was commuting back and forth,
by BART and train or bus, I noticed there’s a disconnect amongst the commuters, so I started a series based on that disconnect. And it wasn’t really anything more than that. It was just paintings about waiting to be
somewhere else — people in transit. So that was in 2001, and I started that series
while I was taking a hiatus from the Academy. I got laid off, took me six months to get an interview, I had a second interview, then I missed it
because someone jumped on the BART tracks, held the train — it was right around 9/11,
so I missed my second interview and that day I decided to re-enroll
back at the Academy. And that was in 2003 I believe. And when I re-enrolled, it was — I re-enrolled as a Fine Art major — painting. This is just the start of the Waiting Series. I ended it last year. I did about three hundred or so, give or take,
paintings within that series. And I’ll talk about a few other series that are ongoing. When I was in school, I wasn’t afraid
to experiment and explore and I encourage you all to do that while you’re here. So I messed around with different mediums —
resin, panel paintings, similar to David Hockney’s photo montages. I’ve been working on another series
from passport photos — found or discarded passports. That series is ongoing. But the purpose of talking about these series
is each one evolves into the next. And they all sort of merge together. They’re separate series,
but I kind of look at it as being one thing. So yeah, I’m just going to go through — I have a few slides from the early
Waiting paintings, and yeah. So this — I still have this painting,
but it’s a bad image of it because
it’s covered in plastic. But this is like Waiting No. 3. This is — I think it’s Powell Street BART. The early Waiting paintings were — I didn’t stray too far away from the photograph. It was sort of an Impressionistic approach to realism, if you want to call it that. And it was very influenced by what I was learning here. This is a couple years forward —
this is probably like Waiting No. 7 or something — I think that’s Civic Center BART. And then I was trying to —
just playing with a monochromatic palette. So around 2004, I started — I was working at Kinko’s, and Kinko’s was where
I did a lot of my experimentation and tried out new mediums and different ideas and just had a lot of fun
experimenting with their machines. While I was there, I started a series
from found or discarded passports. And in the beginning, they were small
and kind of cute — like little characters. These are about 4 inches by 3 inches. I was doing small work
because before this series, I was working on another series
that I called the Panel Series and it was similar to David Hockney’s
photo montages, where I would take a bunch of photographs
and then stitch them together and then paint each photograph separately and then put it back together as one painting — and paint it — as one painting. Those paintings would take me
months and months to finish, and I was in school and working. So I started this series, which was — the paintings are very quick,
and there’s not a lot of thought,
and they’re fun, so — it was a way for me to step outside of myself
and get back to the enjoyment of the process. A few years later, they evolved and they got bigger — and I started making up names
for the people that I was painting. I was looking at these passport pictures
not knowing who they were, but when you spend hours and hours
looking at somebody you don’t know, your mind starts to create these personalities
and these personas about these people, so I started naming them. These are about 5 1/2 x 6 inches. They got a little bit bigger. From 2001 to 2007,
I was doing the Waiting series, I was playing around with resin, the same way you put together
a Photoshop image, with resin — I mean, with layers. I was doing these resin pieces
in a similar sort of format, process — I would print out transparencies
of Photoshop images — image with a bunch of layers
and then build these resin cubes. And then after doing that for a few years,
the resin’s really bad for you, so I stopped working on the resin. And I was also working on the Panel Series,
I was working on the Passport Series, I was playing and experimenting a lot at Kinko’s and with the tools that they had,
their different machines. So I graduated in 2005,
and in 2007, I had a serious look at my work. So my website had resinwork, it had panel paintings, it had passport paintings, It had Waiting paintings, it had still lifes, it had cityscapes — It had all this stuff. I was very lucky, in a sense, that it took me ten years
to get through school. I wasn’t lucky because it took so long, but I was lucky in that I met a lot of people — a couple different generations
that had come out and gone into the art world
and make art for a living. So I had a lot of good examples to lead by. So I was looking at my friends
that are already somewhat established artists and seeing what worked for them. And I realized in 2007 that the guys
that were showing in galleries
and selling work were the ones that had
a cohesive body of work and they had a thing that
identified themselves to what they do. So I stripped everything off my website
except for Waiting. The Waiting Series was the only series
that really held my interest throughout the years. I would work on some Waiting paintings,
and then I would stop. I would do something else,
and then I’d come back to it, and do it again. That happened from 2001 to 2007. So in 2007, I decided to brand myself — that’s kind of a bad word to use amongst artists, but it’s reality of the business that wer’e in, because if you don’t treat it like a business,
then you’re going to struggle. You’re going to struggle anyway. But the more you treat it like a business,
the better off you’re going to be. So I branded myself with Waiting. I wanted people to see someone at the bus stop, sitting there waiting, and think of me and my work. So I stripped everything off my website,
and that’s the only thing I had on there, but when I came back to the series,
the concept had changed over the years. So it was no longer about waiting to get
from point A to point B, but what happens while we wait. When you anticipate the future,
we think about the past, but we’re not really in the present moment. We’re not in the now.
We’re not in the here. So the work became about
what’s happening while we wait. What’s our mind doing? Are we conscious? Are we unconscious? So I thought the best way to do that, to illustrate that idea was
to strip out the environment
and just have one subject — So the viewer’s forced to focus
on the feeling of the painting first, and then the content. I wanted the viewer to feel the work,
rather than see the work. The work — I started stripping out
the environment and just really dialed it in
to the essential elements. It’s about her and what she’s doing
and where she’s at. Plain and simple. Simplifying the concept,
and simplifying the paintings. And I was also interested in movement,
that came from the Panel Series, a lot like this — when I came back to the Waiting Series,
I started incorporating different ideas
that I did in the other series. Again, it’s all one thing, because I’m who I am and you’re who you are,
so whatever you do as an artist, through experimentation and exploration, it’s you. I think the important thing is to be conscious
of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and let those things merge together. And not fear letting go of certain things
and moving forward. So these next two slides from 2007 to about 2010, the work was primarily high-key. There’s a lot of negative space, a lot of white. You could say they were all daytime paintings. When I went to school here, I learned everything
that I know up until 2005 from the Academy. I didn’t know about contemporary art, I didn’t — I knew about contemporary,
like, studio art and fine art. But I didn’t know about contemporary art
or lowbrow art or street art. So when I got out of school, I started hanging out
with different types of artists. Artists doing different types of art. And some of those artists were street artists. So, Waiters — they started out on the street. I had an idea of — I wanted to depict these people
that I was putting into the Waiting paintings,
the landscapes, because the people that I chose
to put into these paintings
were usually overlooked in society. So I wanted to paint them
on a monumental scale and put them back on the street
wherever I took their picture, so the viewer’s forced to give them attention. So they started out as original oil paintings
and latex on butcher paper, and I had to go back and put them on the street
where I took their picture. These are all about — they range in size
from seven to ten feet. So it was a very short spurt of street art for me. I realized I would spend a lot of time
on these butcher paper paintings, and they would be up for a couple of days,
and then torn down. So I started doing them on canvas. So these are the first two I did on canvas. And I stopped doing street art. I never really called myself a street artist, I just kind of did it because I was
hanging out with different street artists and it seemed like it was fun. And it was fun, going out late at night
and putting stuff up illegally, you know? Felt like I was a kid again,
breaking out of the house. So I did the large figures for a little while
and I started doing them really small. These are about 4 by 5 1/2 inches or so. I did hundreds of these. And then, I was still doing the Waiting Series — the Waiters and the Waiting Series are — the Waiters are somewhat of a subseries
within the Waiting Series. And all these places are — this is Oakland,
some place in San Francisco — a lot of it is where I’m living at the time. You know, I’m inspired by my environment. That’s what I choose to paint. You can see the work is slowly starting
to evolve into something else. It’s getting a little bit more abstract, I’m slowly detaching myself
from academia, or technique. So around 2010, I decided to do a shift, and I started doing these night paintings. It’s the same idea — a lot of negative space,
but instead of white, I was using black. These — if I really wanted to make a good living as an artist,
I could just do these dark paintings, I’d probably be financially okay. These paintings sell quicker
than anything else I’ve ever done. So around 2012, I had a show
in Newcastle, England, and it was right around the time
I got my first iPhone. These paintings were all
in the show in England, and the show was about technology
and how it transforms our lives. Before, when I would have shows,
I’d have to go out with a camera, a point-and-shoot,
with an idea in mind and take pictures. Now that I had an iPhone
in my pocket at all times, I was able to capture my day-to-day life or just what happens
on a day-to-day basis — everyday. So this show was based on the iPhone
and how it changes our lives and adds to our lives, I guess — but the work became more abstract
and closer to the subjects, because I was able to take candid photographs
without people knowing what I was doing. In 2012, I started another series
within the Waiting Series, which was called Twenty-Four, and the idea is to go to a city
and spend a month there and document twenty-four places
that represent neighborhoods, places that are historical,
like iconic landmarks. The first place I did was San Francisco,
because I live here. But the idea was to give the viewer
an overall experience of the city that they live in. And I started incorporating photography,
video installation, found objects, and painting. Once I found — I would do a lot of —
like first, I would use social media, if I went to a different city,
I’d use social media, I would reach out to like — send out a message
on Facebook or Instagram — I don’t think Instagram was back then, but — I would say, I’m in your city for one month, if you know any places
that represent neighborhoods,
please let me know. And then people would start commenting
and tell me to go check out different places, and I’d also do a lot of reading and research,
read historical books about the place that I was at. So I would go to these places that I had in mind,
or people would suggest, and I’d go to them at different times of the day,
see what time of day best suits the place. Once I found the place that fit the series,
I would assign an hour out of the day to it and then go back for the assigned hour
and set up a video camera
and shoot for that hour — shoot a video. While I’d shoot a video for that hour,
I’d collect stuff from the ground, found objects, ephemera —
that is sort of the DNA of the place. It tells you who’s in the area,
who lives there, who’s going to this place, and I’d also take pictures with my iPhone
and my point-and-shoot while I was at that place for the assigned hour. After I gathered all the information, usually take forty-eight hours of video
and narrow it down to twenty-four places, I would have a friend of mine put all the videos
together into one frame, so all the videos are playing simultaneously
and it makes a complete day in that city. So it’d be 12:00 to 1:00 a.m., 1:00 to 2:00,
2:00 to 3:00, all throughout the day, twenty-four hours all playing at the same time,
twenty-four different places — in the beginning I would
choose half to make paintings of. So half of the places I would turn into paintings, and I would take the stuff that I collected at the place
and put it on a pedestal underneath the painting, and that sort of puts the painting in context. It tells you like — the stuff that I collected,
say like in the Mission — if I documented stuff in the Mission,
the stuff that I collect there is going to be different than the stuff
I collect in Chinatown. So it gives the viewer an idea
of who’s in the place, who lives there, puts the painting in a certain context. And this is the press release from the first show,
that was at the Sandra Lee Gallery on Post Street. She’s no longer there. And this series is still part of the Waiting Series, I would title the paintings the name of the place,
the hour, the day, and then “Waiting,” with a number. Shaun Roberts also went to school here,
but he studied New Medium. He’s an amazing photographer,
videographer, multimedia guy. So this shows you the painting
and then the stuff that was collected underneath. Here — and these are all San Francisco locations. So this — I only painted twelve of the locations and I think six of the locations from the first show
had stuff underneath — and so the rest of the stuff that I collected
was put into this display case so this here is a map of San Francisco
and this is a legend here — and each one of these little colored pins
represents where it is, so it tells you the name of the place
and then shows you where it’s at. There’s a number that corresponds with stuff
that was collected at that particular location. And then the iPad had the photography
that was taken at each location while
I was there shooting video. Usually when I do the Twenty-Four shows, I’ll go to a city and spend a month and document, and I’ll take anywhere from five
to ten thousand photographs while I’m there. What I was doing was putting the photographs
on an iPad — like two hundred of the best ones, and those are on rotation throughout the show. I forgot to include the picture,
but there’s pictures of the little Waiters here. Kind of gives you an idea of scale,
so I’ll still incorporate those into the shows. And this is a still shot of the video
that was playing all at the same time. So it started out 12:00 to 1:00 a.m.,
1:00 to 2:00, 2:00 to 3:00, that’s the O’Farrell Theatre, Stockton Tunnel, last exit of San Francisco, Tower — Tower Theater, I believe. This is Eddy and Jones, a friend of mine
was killed skateboarding there. Bob’s Donuts, …what is that? Mission — I mean, Yerba Buena Park. That’s where we claimed
San Francisco from Mexico, I believe? And it’s also where the first [unclear]
California was erected. Headquarters for the Chinese Six, Mission de Asís, the oldest church in San Francisco, some random Vietnamese spot, this is Fifth or Seventh and Market. Now it’s a big shopping center
that they’re about to open. Battery Street — used to be the Old Shoreline, City of Light Books, the Mint,
Glide Church, Chronicle — I don’t know what that one is — This was when they were still collecting money
at the toll booth at Golden Gate Bridge. This is the toll collectors. Haight-Ashbury, some random spot, Whiz Burgers, valet parking — because I think it’s going
to disappear eventually — Polk and Sutter; I used to live there,
and Castro Theatre. So the Anonymous Series — the Passport Series, I changed the name — in the beginning it was called Passport Buddies,
when they were kind of cute — and then in 2013 I came back to this series,
I’d taken a break from it for a few years, and I changed the series’ name to Anonymous. And the paintings got much larger
and darker, more cynical. These are still — these are also from
passport photographs. So this was Twenty-Four New York,
which happened in 2013. It’s part of the Twenty-Four Series, obviously. Each Twenty-Four series show I was doing
would be an evolution of the one before it. So for this particular one in New York, it was the first time I did an installation
that supported painting. So Bleecker Bob’s — I was there in March 2013
and the show was in July of 2013, Bleecker Bob’s is a record store
in the West Village. It was there for forty years. It was kind of like a landmark record store. When I came back in July for the show,
it was replaced by a frozen yogurt store. So this started happening more and more — I’d go to these cities and document,
I’d come back for the show, and some of these places that were iconic — representing certain neighborhoods
were disappearing. And being that we’re in San Francisco,
I’m sure you’re all aware of that — I mean, it’s happening here
on a month-to-month basis. These shows — that’s part
of the concept for these shows, is to document these places
that are on the brink of extinction in places that add color to neighborhoods and represent neighborhoods
and are iconic and landmarks and places that you ate when you were a kid, or record stores that you shopped at
when you were young — places that really define
neighborhoods and community — are disappearing at an alarming rate, especially in cities like San Francisco
and New York, London — This show also incorporates a sound installation — so this particular painting,
this was in Chinatown, Manhattan — and the radio was playing
the Cantonese radio station. Just so you can get like — put the painting in a visual context and also audio — just activating more senses. This was a bodega in Jamaica, Queens. This is the first installation that I ever did. But it’s not pure installation. When I first started doing installations,
they were sort of elaborate frames
that supported painting. And I had an awning out there, but you can’t see it. So do you all know Lucien Shapiro, by chance? He went to school here, too. He does performance art and sculpture — we drove to workouts(?) in New York together. And every state that we went through,
we stopped and got a newspaper and magazine. So the magazines are all hand-painted — the covers, but they’re from every state
that we went through. Along with the newspapers. Each city that I documented — so I started here in San Francisco and I’d never taken a video camera and put it in front of someone’s business before. So I quickly realized that people don’t like
having their place of business videotaped. People got pretty confrontational, quick. But I just kind of held my ground and did it
because I would be across the street,
and it’s public property — technically, they couldn’t really stop me
from doing what I was doing, so I just did it. When I went to New York, the mentality from West Coast to East Coast
is a little bit different. So the second day I was in Little Italy
documenting this cafe — a half-hour into it, the owner comes out
with a monkey wrench — and threatened to beat my ass. So I figured out different ways — more stealth tactics to document these places. So I got a bike — or I bought a bike, got a fanny pack, and I cut a hole in it,
and put the camera inside the fanny pack and I would lock the bike up in front
of the place that I was documenting. But after about twenty minutes being there,
people start to wonder why you’re just
standing around. They think you’re casing the place. So it’s kind of uncomfortable and awkward
sitting there for an hour at a time. People start to notice you. And I did the same thing when I was in London —
I used the bike technique. When I documented for Twenty-Four Los Angeles,
the show was canceled, so I [unclear]. I came up with a different idea,
which was where — it worked great. I bought a survey camera, and I gutted it out
and I put the camera inside that, and then I got a construction outfit
and that was — people didn’t even question it. That was perfect. And I had a collector of mine,
he came up from San Diego
and he hung out with me for about a week, and he used to dress in the outfit, too,
and we would have a camera documenting us, because at that point,
it kind of becomes a performative piece. So we’d have a camera documenting us
and then we’d have another camera
inside the survey camera machine, and people would ask us what we were doing — “Yeah, we’re surveying.” “What are you surveying?” “The land mass.” [students laugh] “What’s that thing there?” “Oh that’s a — sends out these signals
to satellites and triggers back down to the survey.” So you could basically tell people whatever — if you look like you’re legit
and you’re supposed to be there, people just accept it. This is London tube, the red lines — so there’s a map above it that shows the line. and then these are — I recorded video
and also sound with this piece. So you can hear the hour of the train. I rode the train line from beginning to end, and I recorded the sound. And then these are all the different Oyster cards
and different passes that I collected throughout the month while I was there. And then this is where I stayed at —
I stayed in — where did I stay? Over by Brick Lane, and there were — a lot of kids in the building that I stayed in, and every day they would play in this courtyard and the elders would go out there and watch them, and I’d usually be out all night, documenting. So they’d always wake me up around two o’clock. So the headphones —
you can hear the kids playing. And then these are toys and stuff
that they kind of left around the premises — just discarded toys. And this is like a clothesline —
that’s how they were drying their clothes. And then this particular piece — so in the ’40s, when we were at war,
London was being bombed, so there’s a train station called Bethnal Green,
and I think it was 1943 — they sounded the alarm, and it was a test, but people didn’t know
it was a test, and they flipped out. They ran down into the train station
and then panicked, and hundreds of people just started running,
and a little girl tripped, and I think eighty women and children died —
trampled to death. So this is a memorial for what happened. I was out there in, I think —
also March, documenting — and then I went back in July for the show, and when I went back there, build a memorial — but they had to stop. They didn’t complete it because
they ran out of funding. So the gallery — they have a print shop, we decided to do a 24 x 60 inch, gold-leaf — 28-carat gold-leaf print of this painting and auction it off, and we’d get the proceeds
to help them finish the memorial. This is like a smaller installation. And then this is a newsstand. These are portraits of people that I saw
when I was in London — but they’re sort of … it’s a progression
into the Anonymous Series, they’re not from passport photographs, but doing these portraits
and kind of in an abstract approach kind of transitioned me later
for the Anonymous Series. That’s the direction
the Anonymous Series goes in. And then this guy was at Ridley Market. So I went back when I was there
and I bought all this stuff from him — just hung it on the outside of the painting. Some of it’s painting, some of it’s actual objects. And it’s kind of a nod to Thomas Wesselmann, and some of the pop artists. So this is real brick. And then this is faux brick. We filled these gaps for the installation
that’s sitting next to it, so — that was kind of part of the installation. This here — I don’t think I have a picture of it, but there’s more of these portraits on this — this is a printout mounted to wood cradle — It’s a place in Hackney, it’s a council house — so when I was out there documenting, I was in Hackney riding my bike and I saw this house with all these
gigantic portraits covering their windows. So I went back and started doing research, and I realized it’s a project called I Am Here. So what happened — this particular area
of Hackney is facing gentrification, so — this particular council house management
stopped taking care of the building. And they stopped taking care of the tenants. And they’re trying to get people to move out, or force them out, so they can tear it down
and build condominiums. And this artist that lives there
started a project called I Am Here, she made a documentary,
and the documentary had to stop, again, halfway through production
because they ran out of funding, so I got in touch with them and I wanted to donate the proceeds
if the painting sold to help them finish their project. But the painting didn’t sell. But if you guys are interested,
if you just google “I Am Here” — it’s really interesting; it’s a great documentary. They all actually got kicked out
of the council house — the project. But it’s a really, really cool story. So around 2014, I started doing more installations,
but they’re still — they still incorporated painting. They weren’t pure installations yet. This is a recreation of Bob’s Donuts on Polk Street. [Student] Good donuts … 4 o’clock in the morning. [Amory] Yeah, that’s when I documented —
it was 4 o’clock in the morning. [Student] That’s what I thought. [Amory] Yeah. This guy’s on …
he’s still there, Leavenworth and … I think it’s in between Geary and Post, maybe? He’s been there, I think, since the ’60s. He’s in there every day, sitting there. And then this was — this was supposed to be part of Twenty-four
Los Angeles, but the show was canceled. I had this piece at Barnsdall Park
for the Juxtapoz 20th or 30th year anniversary, and it’s part of Robert Williams’ retrospective. But this is a motel that I documented
across the street from Hollywood High — it’s this really creepy place that doesn’t belong
where it belongs — like it kind of just sticks out, looks like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I was in LA documenting,
I was just driving around trying to find places. And I came across this place and asked the owner
if I could rent a room. And he wouldn’t let me rent a room. It’s like — weird, weird people. [Students laugh] So I came back the following week
and asked if I could rent a room again, and he’s like — he kind of laughed at me,
and he said, no we don’t have any rooms available. So I waited and came back another time,
and about three days later, got a room. And the place was so creepy,
I wouldn’t stay there. I mean, it was scary. So I called my collector that lives in San Diego — he’s the same guy that was driving around with me
for a few weeks documenting these places, and I asked if he knew any models
that would be willing to do a photoshoot. And we were going to get this guy,
a buddy of his, he’s … a lot of problems. But he was unavailable, so …
Johnny drove up that night. And I did a photoshoot with him. and that’s him sitting on the bed. But the place is just — it’s … when he got there, he was just like,
man this place is like … you can just feel it. There’s just some weird residual energy
that’s kind of … The sign really made the installation. The ‘M’ and the ‘O’ are on … so the motel is on two different transformers. The M and the O are on a dying transformer,
so it blinks. And then I downloaded the sound of static so you could hear the sign — “Zzzzzzzzzzzz!” So the sound and the blinking light
set the mood for the piece. I mean, it makes the piece completely. This was at Art Market a couple years ago, 2014. So I came back to the Anonymous Series
in 2015 and the idea kind of changed a little bit. I was — before I was sort of doing
these character-based paintings
of these passport photographs. And when I came back to the series, the work got more abstract
and it was about catching the person’s presence
rather than the way they look, their identity. And they’re all really small. I did hundreds of them. This was one piece. They’re all about 4 x 5 1/2 inches. Or 4 1/2 by 5 inches. So 2015, I did a show in New York
based on gentrification of the Lower East Side and the disappearance of the Mom and Pop
family-run business. That was the first show where I did —
primarily all the work was reading. So I read — I started reading in January
and read about seven books from January to May. and then I went out there in May,
and took about ten thousand pictures in ten days. And I spent six weeks working. I spent most of the year reading
and developing the ideas and figuring out the historical relevance
of the area for that particular time. And twenty percent executing. But by the time I got to New York,
I knew exactly what I wanted. I had done so much research — It’s about what happened in New York in the ’80s,
which is pretty close to what’s happening here now — in Oakland. So some of the paintings,
I would take places how they used to look that no longer exist and incorporate them
into how they look now. So CBGB’s — back in the ’80s, ’90s, you probably wouldn’t be walking around with kids
in this part of New York. It was pretty seedy back then. But now it’s really safe, there’s condominiums,
there’s a [unclear] where CBGB’s is now, there’s some kind of bank right there. So it’s really transformed.
It’s changed dramatically. Now this area — Lower East Side, East Village — Lower East Side in particular
has become the new Chelsea because galleries can no longer
afford rents in Chelsea. You know, last I heard, a Starbucks
can’t even afford rent in Chelsea. So the Lower East Side
is becoming the new Chelsea. And before Chelsea, it was SoHo. Before artists were living in the East Village
and Lower East Side, they were living in SoHo,
because it was the Meatpacking District. No one really wanted to live there, so artists were living there in these big spaces, and then the place gentrified
and everyone moved out to the Lower East Side
and the East Village, where it was very affordable, and it created this place of creativity. People from all over the world
were moving there, and that’s — you know, the ’80s in the Lower East Side — there’s so much great music and great art
that came out of that one area. You know, because it was affordable
for artists to be there. Same with Mars Bar — this was on 2nd Ave and 3rd? Mars Bar was a staple for a lot of … Mars Bar and CBGB’s is where a lot of early bands —
Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones — it’s where Keith Haring and Basquiat
and a lot of these early street artists were hanging out. Warhol. Kenny Scharf. Some of these places still exist,
but they’re all on the brink of extinction. You know, they could all disappear any time. This place is in East Village,
and it’s still there, and it’s a very important place
for performance, spoken word, literature — This place, when I was out there, this was a bank that was
shut down for a long time, and I think this finance guy bought it. But when I was out there for the show, Vito Schnabel had curated a show in there,
and it was this very highbrow show — it was pretty amazing. And what I heard was,
after the show was over, they tore it down. It’s right near the new museum —
Lower East Side — Rivington area. This is where I got chased off. This spot here. But I was on the other side. Some of this work is going back
to the Waiting Series, like 2007, 2009. Lot of negative space. Late ’70s and ’80s, you couldn’t really give
these buildings away. So there’s a lot of abandoned buildings,
and people were squatting in them. So the city passed a law,
a homesteading law stating — if you’re squatting in one of these buildings and you prove that you can afford the insurance and you can make improvements on the building, we’ll sell it back to you for a dollar. So these people started buying
these buildings for a dollar, because they couldn’t give them away back then. It was an apocalyptic landscape. So this is one of the last remaining squats
from those days, that I think they bought
through the homesteading law. That’s the oldest Yiddish bakery in New York. New York Dolls had one of their album covers
in front of this — if you guys like them. So when I had this show,
Jonathan had gotten a second space — when he moved in, they started
doing construction in front of the gallery. But it worked to my benefit. So if you look in the front window,
these are all land developers’ signs that I took
when I was in New York documenting. So I plastered the front window of the gallery
with all these different places that are being built. And then this is construction that is actually
happening in front of the gallery. [Student] Like [unclear] helped you
build an installation, huh? [Amory] It worked perfectly,
because the next slide, you see I built a construction wall
not knowing that construction’s out there. When you first walk in. So we opened the door
and started opening it, it looked like the installation
just kind of continued. So this wall here — when I was in New York
documenting, a week before I got there, a building blew up on 7th Avenue. And it blew up because the owner
was tapping into an illegal gas line
with their neighbor downstairs. So this piece is sort of a memorial for — a couple people died,
a lot of people were displaced — so this serves as a memorial for the people
that lost their lives and lost their housing. And then here, I don’t think I have —
I don’t know if I have another picture, but if you look inside this little diamond here, there’s a diorama of the empty lot
of the building that blew up. There’s like a little dump truck
and there’s the surrounding perimeter
of the existing walls around it. And then these are all flyers from shows
at CBGB’s and the Mars Bar and the Mudd Club. In 2015, I had a show — I was in a group show
at Fort Wayne Museum. I made this installation for —
this installation’s about the disappearance
of the mom and pop family-run business. And it’s sort of like a life-sized diorama, the interior. 2015, this is in January —
I ended the Waiting Series, and I decided to try to take the work
in a different direction. And this is the first attempt at that. This is a show I had at Lazarides Gallery
in London last June — and this is the first body of work outside of —
first departure from Waiting. This is not part of the Waiting Series. And the work’s getting flatter, it’s more of a nod to early modernism. This show I just — this is my first museum show,
I had it last November. It just came down two weeks ago. And this is the first time that — I incorporated a full installation without painting. So this is a thirty-two-foot-wide installation. Parts of it are — has historical references
to Fort Wayne and the history of Fort Wayne. And parts of it are a conversation about
the political climate and what’s happening
in our country right now. Fort Wayne was voted All-American City
like three different times. And it’s sort of the crossroads of America. So this part of the installation is — sort of about what does
an All-American city look like? What does “Make America Great” look like? Who is it great for? So it’s sort of a conversation
about some of those topics. This guy here, he’s one
of the big portraits that I painted. When I was there, part of the show is — I wanted to reach out to local businesses
and get them involved somehow. So one of the businesses
was a non-profit called Blue Jacket, and they do outreach for veterans and ex-cons. So when these people get out
of either prison or the military — they help these people get back on their feet, they prepare them for interviews,
give them clothes to wear, so we went there and told them
that I wanted to get them involved somehow, so — I met three of their — three people
that went through their program and interviewed them and took pictures of them. This guy here, he’s known
as Scary Jerry in Fort Wayne. He’s about — he’s almost seven feet tall,
he is kind of scary-looking. But there’s a Facebook page on him. So when people see him around Fort Wayne,
they update the page. It’s like, oh we spotted Scary Jerry here! So like, people are scared of him. The people at the Blue Jacket — that’s all they told us. So I felt bad for the guy. So I put him in this painting
and the drawing — this monster thing, is a drawing from — the museum
has a learning center, and kids go in there and draw. So a lot of the drawings that are incorporated
in one of the other paintings come from the kids, and that’s one of the monster drawings
that one of the kids drew. And all this other stuff
are just different tags around the city, but the painting is primarily about him, and how he’s perceived in Fort Wayne. And then when you put the headphones on,
you hear the sounds of the train. This painting is about — there’s these veterans that picket
every third Saturday in front of the courthouse, and they protest the war. So this is about what they stand for
and what they protest. Later on — my photographs were limited. These are — I made a bunch of poppy plant flowers,
that’s the flower of remembrance. And then a friend of mine,
he’s been helping me with — last four years, he writes stuff for me. He wrote this little statement,
extended label, that went with the painting to sort of
put it in another context. These portraits here — I was there for a month, we spent about two and a half weeks installing, and then we had the reception, the opening — and I had two weeks left — didn’t really know
what to do, so I decided to — I had to be present in the museum every day,
and it was open to the public, so the public interaction was part of my residency. I came up with the idea to take pictures of people,
passport format, and do all these — to do portraits of them. So there’s three hundred portraits of people
that came and visited me while I was at the museum. And they’re all done, sort of anonymous style. This painting here — so, have you all heard
of the Internet Archive? Anybody? Internet Archive is based in San Francisco, they have five different locations
around the country, and one of those locations is in Fort Wayne
in the basement of the library. And what they’re doing is,
they’re trying to archive all the books. So they have these stations set up,
similar to animation stations, 2D animation, where these books are laid out with cameras
and then people are down there going page by page taking digital images of these books. They’re archiving all the books. You can go to the digital archive — Archive.org —
and download the books for free. So this painting is about the death
of the book as we know it. It’s about the Internet Archive, and then — these are calling cards from libraries that —
I don’t think we use those anymore. It’s all digital now. And then the frame is made out of the same cards. And there’s — you know, different literary classics — Death of a Salesman, Hamlet, Homer — Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Great Gatsby. Fort Wayne is also known for their … they have the biggest Lincoln Foundation
in the country, so when I was out there documenting, the curator at the museum,
his girlfriend works at the library, and she got me a tour. And the woman gave me a tour
of the Lincoln Foundation. It’s in the vault of the library. In about three weeks —
they had this photograph, original photograph where when Lincoln died,
his wife grieved for him for years. So she went and saw all these spiritual advisors, and this one guy claimed that he could
talk to the dead through his photographs. Back then, people didn’t really —
they weren’t really educated
on photography techniques, so he took this picture of her
and above her is Lincoln, like a ghost,
with his hands on her shoulders. And it’s just a double-exposed picture. But she believed it, you know — because people didn’t really know
about the processes back then. And about a month later, I was in the city,
in San Francisco, at my girlfriend’s house, and we were watching one of those mystery shows
one Saturday morning, and the woman that gave me the tour
at the library was on the show. And they were trying to debunk the photograph
that she showed me. So I decided to include it in the painting. This painting is about the library,
but it’s also about the Internet Archive. One of the other things that I did was,
I did a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, sort of similar to the dark Anonymous portraits. And I donated it to the Foundation, and they built me like a little shrine kind of thing
in the library — it’s on permanent display, and it has the painting, it has a picture of Lincoln,
and some other memorabilia. Then this one here is — this is a painting
about Fort Wayne Museum, and these drawings here
are drawings that the kids did, and then these installations
are part of their permanent collection
that are around the yards of the museum. And then all the drawings that I used
for the painting are on the floor, with some of the pictures
of the kids that made them. And then this piece here — this is about the Embassy in Fort Wayne. The Embassy is a really famous theatre —
all kinds of people, when they were touring
across the country, would stop and perform there. So they had like, Duke — Louis Armstrong,
Bob Hope, Tony Bennett — Duke Ellington, Bob Hope, Dorothy Day — so the place has been open since the early ’20s. But in the ’70s, they ran out of funding
and they faced demolition. The significance of the place is,
they have a real pipe organ in there, and these pipe organ enthusiasts
became guardians of this thing. So I guess apparently, there’s not
many pipe organs left in the country. So these people became super protective —
they do maintenance on it monthly. So when the building was facing demolition, the guardians of the pipe organ did a fundraiser
and raised two hundred thousand dollars and they saved the building
a day before scheduled demolition. So this guy here is called —
he’s Buddy Nolan, and he was the — “the” guardian. He’s the main guy that saved the building. The only reason why the Embassy
is still there is because of him. So when you hear — put the headphones on,
and you hear him playing the pipe organ. And then the neon that wraps around it
represents the marquee that’s out front
of the Embassy. And then those are the Waiters. And then — these are the people
that I painted that were at Blue Jacket. So they came by when I was in the museum. We took these pictures, and the next day,
I posted it to social media. And then the museum reposted it
to their Twitter, their Instagram, their Facebook. And within hours, somebody posted,
“Is that Scary Jerry?” [Students laugh and murmur] [Amory] But the thing was, he goes,
“Do you know about Scary Jerry?” And then someone at the museum
responded [unclear] — “He’s a sex offender. He raped somebody.” So it was an issue. There was a lot of conversation about,
“Should we take the painting down? We don’t want to send out
the wrong message — we didn’t know.” So yeah, that happened. So this is the last thing that I did in January,
and it was here in San Francisco. It was a month-long residency
at the de Young Museum. The idea was to do an installation
that changes each week. Four different installments
and it shows the process of gentrification, but in reverse order. So the first week was a condominium
with a gym underneath. You can’t see it, but up here, there’s some —
this is some weed plants sticking out. Because I’m currently getting kicked out
of my warehouse from Harborside, which is the biggest marijuana dispensary
in the country. And they’re taking over
all the industrial warehouses in Oakland. They’re the new gentrifiers of East Oakland, which is ironic because they’re supposed
to be activists and they’re supposed to be on our side. But they’re — they’re coming in,
and when Prop 64 was passed,
legalization of marijuana — there’s certain laws stating that if —
you can grow it, but you have to do it
in industrial zone areas. Industrial zone areas
are where artists are at, because no one else really wants
to be in those areas. But they’re coming over to — they’ve already kicked me out,
they’re kicking out a lot of people, and it’s happening. They’re the new gentrifiers. I had the same installation I had in Fort Wayne
on display, because it’s about gentrification — and then this wall back here is a timeline
that shows the progress and evolution
of the Waiting Series and the Anonymous Series. So the second week —
because it’s about gentrification, it shows the process of what happened
to the city over the course of a few years, but condensed down to a month. But it’s in reverse order, so the second week was a construction wall
that’s been placed around the condominium,
of course, being built. I encouraged the public to interact
with the piece and draw on it. And then the third week was a boarded-up
Mom and Pop family-run business that gets forced out due to high rents,
or contracts … lease is ending. And this was the final day of the third week,
so this is after everyone — when this piece came in to the museum,
it was really clean and white. But this is what the public did. So they’re encouraged to interact
and add to the piece because that represents community that’s lost
when gentrification happens to the city. And then the final week was
a dedication to the Ghost Ship. And I did the same thing I did in Fort Wayne —
I did portraits of museum visitors, and there’s Drew right there. Drew came through. [laughs] That’s it. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Fine Art Painter: Brett Amory”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *