Stories We Tell Ourselves: An interview with artist Brianna Lance
Brianna Lance has lived many lives. She has served as head designer for the edgy women’s fashion brand, Reformation, been the front woman for a girl band, Bad Girlfriend, and worked as a contributing editor for So It Goes, a biannual magazine championing new and unique voices. This month at the Freehand, she’ll showcase yet another side talent — her original paintings. On March 7 at George Washington Bar, we’ll be displaying Brianna’s watercolor series, “False Icons,” a set of dreamy pieces influenced by religious and maritime mythologies. We sat down with Brianna to chat about her artwork and the many ways she draws inspiration.
Freehand New York: Your resume is impressive and varied and lists Reformation, So it Goes Mag, playing in bands, designing a clothing label, and developing a career as an in demand creative consultant. How did you turn being “creative” into a source of income and livelihood? How did you make all these things happen for yourself?
Brianna Lance: I really think a lot of it just comes from workaholism. I get depressed if I’m not making something. Also, I’ve gotten help from people around me. I know my weaknesses and selling myself and negotiating money is a weak spot. I luckily have an amazing agency, Pool, that helps me with that, as well as people around me who help to monetize my brain.
FH NY: What were you doing before working at Reformation?
BL: I was a stylist. But I was at Ref from age 26 to 32 so it was a long time. Before that I was basically a kid.
FH NY: How did you realize you wanted to make painting a big part of your life?
BL: I’ve always painted, but when I left the men’s company I started, Basic Rights, I had time I hadn’t had in years and started painting more and making it something to take more seriously.
FH NY: What do you think of the term “girl boss”?
BL: Honestly I think it’s silly and infantilism. If you’re a boss, you’re a boss. Why do you have to be a child female boss? I think silly nicknames are a way to have yourself taken less seriously and see your power as more of a trend and less of a position in life.
FH NY: How did you choose the things to be deemed icons in your series? What does each represent to you?
BL: I mix matched a bunch of icons from all kinds of mythologies and religion. The point of it is to reflect they way we take on mythologies about ourselves and what is right and wrong with us. We let icons reflect onto us rather than seeing ourselves clearly.
FH NY: Are there any songs that inspired any of the paintings? Or other sources of inspiration?
BL: I always listen to music when I paint but I listen to so much that there isn’t one in particular that influenced something more than something else.
FH NY: What do you listen to while you paint?
BL: Mainly music that makes me feel like I am floating. I know that’s a really abstract description — but that’s what it is to me.
FH NY: Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
BL: I love Alice Neal, Kara Walker, Alex Garant and Emilio Villalba
FH NY: What do you paint with?
BL: I paint with water colors.
FH NY: By assigning certain icons associated with specific religious beliefs or mythologies and writing new narratives for them, what did this mean for you, and what did you hope this could do for the viewer?
BL: There are two main themes the myths we tell ourselves and the myths we believe in. The idea is to question what you choose to believe. By mixing up all this different iconography I wanted to create images that felt sacred but unknown.
FH NY: We saw that the themes of nature and the elements run through your work frequently. Can you talk through this a bit?
BL: Maybe because I’m in a city I’m starved for nature. The idea of personifying plants and animals is a way to soften the the blow of the questions being asked. I want to bring up really personal problems and the way they are presented in animals or plants makes them easier to take. Also, it’s just what the inside of my brain looks like.
FH NY: In religious fables and myths, there is often a balancing act between accepting otherness or making people feel like outsiders. Your work very much opens up the acceptance of difference? Why was this important to you?
BL: It’s very important to me the idea that your belief in yourself and in spirituality is personal. It doesn’t matter what other people think. It’s about creating a safe place for yourself.