Artist Interview: Brianna Angelakis

We had a chance to speak with Florida based artist Brianna Angelakis upon the completion of her body of work, Fairy Tales: The Test of Time, set to debut at Modern Eden on May 10th. Brianna's star is rising quickly on the contemporary art scene. In the past few years alone, her paintings have exhibited nationally in museums and galleries with critical acclaim. Her works have been published internationally including books such as Semi-Permanent and Creative Quarterly. She was recently selected as an IlluXCon Scholarship winner for 2013. In the Fall of 2014, she will begin her M.F.A. in Painting with an assistantship at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.

ME: What was your inspiration for this show and how did you select your subject matter?

BA: I always wanted to make a series of paintings inspired by fairy tales, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Like most children, I grew up reading fairy tales, but I never really grew out of them. As an adult, I've enjoyed reading fairy tale retellings which put a new spin on the tales we know and love. Similarly, I decided to retell a few of my favorite fairy tales in my own work. Through the addition of a number of contemporary elements, I created my own interpretation of each fairy tale to make them more relatable to a modern audience.

 

ME: Many of your subjects are young women. What is the significance of them in your work? Is your work autobiographical in any way?

BA: My understanding as a woman in society definitely fuels my work. Feminist literature is a huge inspiration for me. In the past, I've made paintings directly inspired by Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, combined with the idea of the fallen woman and other feminist literature. The women in my paintings for Fairy Tales: The Test of Time represent the other side of the spectrum. Instead of the fallen woman, I've focused on purity and innocence of the female in relationship to their original fairy tale counterparts. In the future, I'd like to combine these ideas into a single series of paintings. 

 

ME: Fairy Tales: The Test of Time is obviously inspired by fairy tales. What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?

BA: While I would spend hours rereading most of the collection of fairy tales in a book my mom gave me, I can remember myself frequently turning back to Thumbelina. She has quite the adventure being stolen away by a toad, escaping, and eventually having to deal with the coming of winter and whether or not she'll see the sun again. In retrospect, it's really an emotional story, testing her strengths and weaknesses to achieve her freedom. 

 

ME: You are a recent graduate with a double-major in English and Fine Art. How does literature affect your work as an artist?

BA: My work is greatly influenced by works of literature which represent the female through supernatural imagery. I often find myself turning to feminist literature as well as poetry written by the Romantics. Writers tend to exploit symbolism in their work which also happens to translate well in paintings. In the past, I've used a combination of analytical material as well as my own analysis regarding literature to assist my depiction on canvas. Fairy Tales: The Test of Time is certainly another example of me drawing inspiration from literature once again.  

 

ME: What is your artistic process? 

BA: I generally start with a very rough idea, and then I hold a photo shoot with my friends who are the most wonderful models. They're willing to lay upside down for me or run in place while I take a good 100-200 photos from various perspectives. After going through the film several times over, I can usually pinpoint a shot which inspires me. I draw a few thumbnail sketches in my moleskin, collect more reference images, and get to oil painting! I always start by throwing down quick, large shapes of color, trying to cover the entire canvas in one go. Over the course of a number of days, I define the shapes little by little until I'm working on intricate details. Once the painting feels resolved, I sign the painting and move on to the next! 


ME: What’s your daily life like? What are some things you do when you’re not painting / making art?

BA: I generally spend 40-60 hours in the studio a week, so I have very little free time. I make up my lack of time to physically sit down and read by constantly listening to audiobooks while I'm at the easel. I also listen to a lot of podcasts generally dealing with art and animation. When I'm not painting, I'm usually spending time with my family and my maltese puppy, Bobo, hanging out and watching a movie. I also watch a bit too much anime and Disney. Anyone who's spoken to me for more than ten minutes probably knows about my lifelong obsession with Sailor Moon. I even have a full out Sailor Moon cosplay - the wig, the wand, and all!

 

ME: What artists inspire you (alive or dead)?

BA: Whenever I need a jolt of inspiration, I find myself turning to John William Waterhouse. Like myself, his paintings are generally inspired by literature. Though our marks on the canvas are exceedingly different, I feel I can relate to his appreciation for the written word and his need to to retell literature in his work. 

In general, I tend to turn to the old masters whenever I'm unsure on how to resolve a composition or if I'd like to work with a different palette than my usual. A few contemporary artists I adore are Margaret Bowland, F. Scott Hess, and David M. Bowers. 

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Fairy Tales: The Test of Time opens May 10th at Modern Eden Gallery.

More info about the exhibition can be found HERE.