Brandi Milne’s passionately autobiographical paintings explore the intriguing realms of duality and the delicate balance that exists within the intertwining of opposing forces and emotions. Milne’s candy-coated visual aesthetic entices us to delve into narratives which bring together themes of innocence and maturity; love and loss; life and death; all the while retaining the ability to induce surprise within the subtlety of her sombre undertones. Brandi’s happy, yet sheltered childhood has provided her with many philosophical dilemmas, and as such, much inspiration, as the years have gone by. It is through her nostalgia for memories from her youth and their relation to current thoughts, that she often communicates with us; cleverly entangling meaning within a metaphorical web of pop culture inspired symbolism. By encouraging growth and understanding of herself and the world she inhabits via art filled with such openness and vulnerability, Milne presents us with generous opportunity to partake in our very own individual slices of soul searching.
Brandi Milne was born and raised in Orange County, California in 1976 and still lives and works in the area to this day. A self taught artist and illustrator, Milne has had her work published in leading New Contemporary Art publications Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose, both online and in print. She has also exhibited her work near and far and is currently represented by the prestigious Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles.
WOW x WOW is ecstatic to have recently had the opportunity to speak with Brandi about some of the inspirations and motivations behind her work. Read on to find out more about this captivating artist in the following exclusive interview.
Hi Brandi! First of all, thanks very much for taking the time to have this little chat, we really appreciate it. To start us off, we’re interested to hear about where you’re currently living and what you like about the area? What is the art scene like there and do you feel a part of that community?
I’m currently living in Orange County California. I’ve lived here my whole life; it’s comfortable, familiar and quiet, with lot’s of free parking. The art scene here is very different than the art scene I’m used to in LA; just 45 mins away and incredibly different. I haven’t been someone who immerses myself in community, but I am working on that! I’ve lived a very shy, isolated life for a long time, and I’m trying something different. We’ll see where that takes me.
Storytelling and narrative are at the heart of the art you make. In your opinion, what are some of the most important ingredients that go into making a successful visual narrative?
Yes, storytelling and narrative are very important to my work, it’s how I relate to others. To relay an emotion in a visual way starts with staying close to that certain feeling I’ve chosen to speak of in the work. It’s the foundation of each piece and I can build the visual story from there; color to suit the mood, form and composition, subject and character, each supporting that initial emotion. I constantly need to be LOOKING at the work unfolding, watching it, asking it (myself) questions of where it’s going, where it can go, how I can stretch the story this way or that, and it’s all based on how I’m feeling. There’s no formula other than that for me.
Sticking with the idea of narrative for a moment longer, can you let us in on what initially got you interested in visual storytelling?
Gosh, if I think back on where that started…I’d say it really wasn’t a decision I made, but more of a development as I grew as an artist. I started my career with illustrations of tall long legged women dressed (or undressed) in luxurious fabrics and ornaments. I felt at some point that I wanted more from my work. I was just speaking of beauty and form but had a lot more to say. Narrative was what happened naturally from there. I had never been a person that was so eloquent with words, but visually I knew what I liked and used that to express how I was feeling and what I was thinking. It kinda worked out! Ha!
There are recurring elements of duality within your art. These often feature as integral components of your thematic explorations and are also in evidence within your visual aesthetic; between the cute and the darker more sinister aspects of your work for example. Please talk to us about your thoughts on this. What is it about opposites and this kind of dualism that is most appealing to you?
I love duality. It was so confusing to me growing up, I really couldn’t wrap my head around it and I fought it for so long. I believed that things should be black or white; that you were either a good person or a bad person. You were either happy or you were sad. In Disney movies, particularly, I was absolutely astonished to see that Disney chose to include such horrifically sad moments in his storytelling. We were watching a CARTOON and suddenly there was death and heartbreak and I was FEELING it!! I wanted to reject it, fast forward to the fun cute happy parts. I was disturbed by it. But as I was exploring my own work as an adult, I realized that it was that duality I was feeling and that I wanted to talk about. I love beauty and I love happiness, but I wouldn’t have either if I didn’t have the opposites and everything in between.
Another thematic aspect of your work you like to revisit is the inherent innocence and naivety of some of the characters you create. Please give us a little insight into intentions regarding these themes and how you approach this area of your art.
Yes, it’s where I come from. I had a very happy childhood, I was sheltered from the world in so many ways. My mom did her very best to keep the ugliness that was out in the world away from her children for as long as she could. But as I went out into the world, there was a lot I didn’t understand, and that happiness soured. I think I touched on it in the previous question about duality, that naivete and innocence can seem ideal but it just isn’t based in reality. It fascinates me and it’s a big part of who I am, so naturally it turns up in my work. I love a story about a little fool, I love a story about a trickster, it turns around and around in my mind and inspires me.
Nostalgia for childhood memories and memorabilia flavours your subject matter, whether it’s through the pop culture icons and artefacts you grew up with or personal family memories. Tell us about how you go about piecing these elements together with your larger narratives?
Visually, I’m drawn to those images. They touch on a certain feeling and I respond to them immediately. If what I’m doing in creating artwork is telling my story and relating to others who might feel similarly, including all those nostalgic stimuli is like using descriptive wording. It’s a way to get the feeling across.
What are your opinions about beauty in reference to man made artefacts? Is beauty something that you search for in art and is it something you consider when producing your own work?
Beauty is a lot of different things. I absolutely look for what my definition of beauty is at any given time in art. I very much want it to be in the art that I produce. I think beauty is positivity and acceptance and that’s what I’d like to be putting out into this world. Beauty and positivity are not vacant of sadness or even ugliness, rather it’s an acceptance of all of it.
How important is it for you as an artist to set yourself new challenges and goals? In what new ways do you envisage pushing yourself in the near future?
Yipes, it’s life and death!! Without challenges in my work, I lose interest. Without goals I stop working as hard. They’re what keep me going! I want to reach beyond my reach with each piece I produce. I want to get bigger and better and brighter with every stroke of my brush. I want to open my eyes and my mind and fill them both with inspiration that makes me go ape shit crazy like a mad scientist. I want the moon and the stars and everything in between. I want my future to look better than I ever imagined growing up! And honestly, it already does.
As we move through life we continue to grow and change. In what ways have you seen your work evolve since you started down the path of being a professional artist?
I’ve seen my artwork ebb and flow as I do personally. The closer I am to my own thoughts and feelings, the more proficient I am as an artist. That’s the magic of being an artist.
Do the interpretations viewers offer about your work ever end up influencing what you produce? What are your thoughts about the dialogue and conversation cycle which is created between the artist and viewer?
I love this question! The interpretations that I’ve heard from viewers of my work have inspired me, so yes, they have influenced me greatly. There is such reward in someone telling you that they have heard you, and that they understand you. Also, even beyond that I feel that my viewers are saying thank you for understanding THEM. Which is incredible and blows my mind. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can communicate on a larger scale and in such a manner. If communication is the goal, it’s so satisfying to hear you’ve achieved it and have touched someone so deeply by putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way that others are responding to.
In order to get a better understanding of the personality of an artist, it can help to get a peek behind the curtain. Would you be willing to share a story from your own life, one which you feel has contributed to shaping the person and therefore the artist you are today?
Actually, this entire interview has been just that! Thank you for such thoughtful questions!
If you could own one piece of art from any of the world’s collections what would it be and why?
Jeez, that’s a hard question to answer, there’re entirely too many pieces to choose from, which makes me go for obscurity, let’s see… I’ll take the wobbly lines and humor of a napkin drawing from my son or husband any day. They are treasures.
What’s next for Brandi Milne?
The moon, Alice…