Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In Other Words: The Unexpected and Wonderful Artistic World of Annie Brown

Annie Brown. From upspiralcreative.co


I usually approach an interview with a good idea where the conversation will go, but not this time. I had no idea what we would talk about.  All I know is that a mutual friend said, “You need to talk to Annie.” So I did. It was unexpected and wonderful.



Annie Brown is more than an artist, she is a creative. She was involved with the Blink light festival in 2017.  She says, “I wanted to be involved but I don’t work in lights or anything like that. So I talked some people into being in the parade. We had a blast.”  They made tatter coats with mylar strips and glow sticks.  “So they had all of these strips on them that reflected light. Simple and cheap.” 

Are you going to be in Blink again? “Yeah. My goal is that the class I start teaching in March, I want to bring in people who specialize to help students make costumes. I want to bring in a costume designer who knows about e-tech and a dancer who can help students create a character. Or someone who can add sculptural elements to our costumes.” And she will make it happen. 

And she does this because? “I want to!” She laughs. 


Annie doesn’t specialize in any particular medium. She works with what’s around or with what strikes her fancy. Cardboard. Metal. Animal skulls. Painting. Video. Performance. Light. Paper. Music. Like any other artist, she synthesizes what’s at hand to create something new. “I get bored easily.” 
Cow skull. Courtesy Annie Brown

How dangerous is she when she gets bored? “I start putting lights in chicken hats!” She pulls out a knit chicken hat. The kind with ear flaps and a string tie. “The eyes light up.” She demonstrates. “I’m not too dangerous.” She laughs. She is having a good time.

When she gets bored she starts poking around and asks “What if?” 
“Yeah. I’ve been melting CDs lately. I haven’t figured it out yet but they look kind of cool.” CDs have a mirror quality that she finds appealing. “I’m thinking I might put them into an outfit to reflect light.” 

I asked about other her artistic endeavors.

“I have a forge. I do a little blacksmithing, but it’s been a while since I did any of that. I do some painting. I like to make stuff. …. I’m teaching some classes now. They’re kind of like STEM classes but with art. I find projects that are STEMish and then make them creative.”  She pulled out a greeting card with a plastic window in the middle. She scratched an image on it and then backlit it. It’s a dramatic effect and would make an interesting card.  “We’ll probably do Christmas trees, stars, or something like that with the class.” 

Annie runs UpSpiral Creative out of the Highland United Methodist Church. “That is what I teach my classes under.” 

The name reflects an attitude more than anything. She says, “It’s painful to talk about even after 14 years. Within five months, two brothers and a nephew died and I felt like every time I turned around someone was dying. I sank really low. My family kept me functioning but it was a dark dark time. One thing, besides my family, that got me out of that downward spiral was creating. Now I see my mission as helping others find their creativity, whether by example, teaching, or talking them into joining me in some harebrained idea. UpSpiral.” That creative thinking brought her out of her funk. You can look up or down from the same spot. She chose to move up. 

“My goal is to help people do cool things,” she claims. 

What’s the benefit? She laughs again. “I could sit around and watch TV all the time. But, you know, I do that a lot. I admit it. But, um, if I do that too much then.”  She trails off in thought and returns with “I almost feel like we are obligated to.” We are obligated to make art.

Is creativity necessary to be human? “I think it is. I think we should all feel obligated to do it. If not, then why did we come out of the trees?” 

So what is creativity? “Making something that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t have to be for any purpose…. If we are to grow as a species and save our world then we really need to create….I feel there are a lot of people who have had creativity beaten out of them. I want to find those people and bring it back out.” But people are anxious about their creativity. “They need somebody to give them permission.” And she gives them permission and encouragement.
Books placed in the park event. Courtesy Annie Brown.

She is more interested in attitude than work. “When you are around somebody who is really enjoying and doing really cool things and enjoy what they are doing, there’s an energy’s that’s really cool. You want to hang around them. Pick their brains. Watch them. Learn from them.“  

So where does the artistic trail lead? It’s not a straight line.
  
“It’s lead me to Fort Thomas Coffee!” That’s where we met. She laughs again. “Sometimes I commit random acts of art. The last one was after the election. I hung origami birds in the park as a peace offering…. It served its purpose. I call it Golden Fabulous Random Acts of Art. I told people they could take the doves. They were up for a few days.” 

So you just art bomb? 

Well, for Johnson Elementary’s first day of school one year, the Golden Fabulous Random Acts of Art “made Minecraft figures and stuck them on the median strip telling kids ‘Welcome back to school.’” What a fun impromptu greeting. “I made eight Easter Island heads out of cardboard and stuck them on a trail in the park. I want to redo that one.” And she once left little books in the park and asked visitors to sketch and write. Her acts of creativity prompt others to create. She also creates cardboard pieces as a prank of sorts for a friend’s birthday as well as a cardboard canoe with helmets (because why not?) for a regatta competition.

Outside Johnson school. Courtesy Annie Brown.

She mentions this is passing, almost an afterthought. She laughs. “I do a talk show too. I mean, I call it a talk show. It’s really performance art. What I do is I’ll set up at a festival or something to interview people. I’ve been here at the Art Around Town once. Everyone gets two questions. I randomly select normal interview questions and they select prompts. And they’re not supposed to answer my question. They’re supposed to go by what the prompt says. One guy’s prompt was to pick a fight with me. So I asked him, ‘How are you today?’ And he just went off, knocked the chair over and walked off. It was one of my favorites.” My son videos it. And then I’ll edit it and put it on YouTube.

Oh, and she plays ukulele. But what makes music interesting is that there is a little surprise in each song. Something unexpected but welcomed. That’s the kind of conversation I had with Annie Brown. It was unexpected and wonderful.

So back to a previous question. Her medium? Good question. Her medium is life itself. 

I’m really looking forward to our next conversation. I hope ukuleles and cardboard and maybe a forge are involved.

You can contact Annie Brown at upspiralcreative@gmail.com or visit her website at upspiralcreative.com where you can view her art and talk shows.  

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Chuck! The world needs to know Annie!

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  2. A wonderful interview! My wife and I love to walk around a corner and come face to face with unexpected art . . . rock sculptures along a hiking trail, yarn-bombs on a signpost. It provides amusement that lingers and the sense that someone you don’t know wants you to smile.

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