During Home & Away, we’ve hosted talks with all the wonderful exhibiting artists, both in real life and on Instagram Live (which you can view here). We’re also working on getting the talks posted on our nascent YouTube channel. Stay tuned for that.
For artist Adrian Landon Brooks, we went old school with a written Q & A.
Adrian is a Texas-based artist whose “desert folk” oeuvre includes serene illustrations and paintings that offer contemplations on spirituality, love and loss with a dash of awe for the spiritual universe and our mortal screenplays within it.
We have six works on view from Adrian’s stunningly haunting Warpaint series. Warpaint utilizes his superior line work executed on found 19th century cabinet card portraits, named for the development of the cardboard backing adhered to the photos which allowed them to be displayed upright in home “cabinets.” He also incorporated painted shapes in the works, something that is newer to the series, using his traditional warm earth tones. You can view the work here.
I first came across Adrian’s art through a former gallery in Los Angeles and it was love at first sight. I am all in when it comes to altered antique photos (as anyone who a has seem Home & Away has surely deduced). Adrian’s works are exceptional in the genre, so captivating and quietly powerful. I am enamored with their mystique. They feel like miniature meditations on and homages to the feminine energy.
Enjoy this Q & A with Adrian.
There is something quietly romantic about antique photos. They conjure a sense of nostalgia and longing, at least for me. What connects you to these photos?
A: I was drawn to the sincerity of the images and the overall nostalgia like you mentioned. Our culture is so over saturated with photos nowadays that it’s lost all its meaning. Most people have hundreds of photos of themselves or loved ones in their pockets now. Cabinet cards were probably prized possessions for many families and are such a great piece of history. Not only of the subjects in the photos but also the photographers that took the portraits.
Your work has such a lovely sensitivity and reverence to it. Do you imagine stories behind the women – their history and the significance of having their portrait taken? Is their imagined story what prompts the particular line work used to adorn each of them?
A: I view these works more as a continuous series than individual pieces. I wouldn’t say that I read that far in to each image specifically but I’m ultimately always trying to honor the subjects. I have been approaching the newest pieces a little differently depending on the actual photo and what composition I think would work best. That’s most related to the addition of painted elements like the pieces in the show. Each individual piece dictates those choices for sure.
I love the elegant delicacy of your line work. It is an interesting juxtaposition to the implication of ‘war paint.’ Beauty and strength. Can you elaborate on that?
A: The line work was completely intuitive and evolved over time. The series started more as scrawling lines and got tighter as I completed pieces. I came up with the title Warpaint after I had already completed some photos. The subjects are meant to be adorned in a empowering way as opposed to just making someone look pretty. I saw warriors when I started looking at the completed works and that was in line with my creative intentions. The women in these photos represent a strength that has been prevalent in my life since I was born. I was raised by strong women who made me the person I am today.
Where do you find your cabinet cards?
A: I started off scrounging through antique stores but I order most of them online now. I have a much more specific kind of photo I’m looking for nowadays so they come from all over. I do have people that send them to me randomly as well which is always a nice surprise.
What attracts you one over the other? Are you looking for certain qualities in the subject?
A: I’m generally looking for clear/bright faces to work on but sometimes I’m just inspired by the photo and it pushes me to expand my approach.
Why just women?
A: Women are the reason and inspiration behind the series. I just don’t have the same sort of personal connection otherwise.
In your collection, is there a cabinet card that you can’t bring yourself to altering?
That’s funny because I just bought one recently! I did work on it a little bit but I couldn’t bring myself to illustrate on the face.