Reading Frenzy ~ An Independent Press Emporium

Interview with Brittany Powell

February 23, 2010:

In a little more than a week's time, Reading Frenzy will be bombarded with a parade of over 20 dogs! Thanks to Brittany Powell and her innovative mediums of contact paper and gocco prints, near life-sized pups will parade our walls. In anticipation for her show I briefly chatted with her about a trailer park attraction, hippie parents, and, of course, dogs.

What first brought you to the medium of contact paper? Was there a particular inspiration or a-ha moment?

A friend and I created a trailer park attraction called BobLand as part of an exercise in school. We made those boards with cutout heads where you can take photos of people poking their own heads through. The scenes featured ordinary people--cannery workers, a stripper, and a secretary. For the secretary's desk, we used wood-grained contact paper. With the leftovers, I made a 2-dimensional vending machine on my studio wall. That's kind of how it began.

I've noticed that quite a bit of your work straddles a kind of pop-art kitsch, as well as a kind of traditional domesticity; has your own upbringing informed these aesthetics?

I'm sure my childhood informs my artistic interests. My hippie parents didn't let us eat much processed food or watch much TV, so when I did see and try products I paid extra attention. My sister and I memorized and performed commercials because we didn't get more than our allotted 1/2 hour of TV a day. I find that I'm still really attracted to snack packaging and everyday meals like diner food, but true to my roots, I can't handle eating that way. We don't watch TV at our house now, but when we stay at hotels we're glued to the TV. That's probably the only reason I get anything done. As far as the "traditional domesticity" goes, I've always been interested in the everyday objects around me. I love beautiful or interesting things wherever I find them. Currently, I'm distracted by all of the flowers popping up when my dog and I go for our morning walks.

Because your work is site-specific, have there been any installations in your past exhibition history that proved challenging to navigate or transform?

The most challenging installation for me was in Park City, UT. The gallery was huge, so I figured a depiction of an interior space wouldn't work. Often, I cut out a contact paper version of a room on the walls, but the illusion couldn't happen in a space that large. Instead, I carved out wall-height pages from a West Elm furniture catalog. Because we view catalogs page-by-page, it didn't matter that you couldn't feel surrounded by the whole thing at once, plus the large room gave me a chance to fit in more pages.

What can we expect in your upcoming show at Reading Frenzy?

Expect dogs. This installation isn't meant to evoke an entire scene because of the nature of the location. In a store where products necessarily have to line the walls, the most uninterrupted space is above the picture rail, so that's where the dog show will take place.

And what inspired you to design a parade of dogs?

My studio practice tends to follow what I'm thinking about. My dog is quickly aging and he consumes much of my time, thought, and heart, so I find it hard to work on things that don't relate to him somehow. I suppose he is a big part of my everyday landscape, and my work in general usually focuses on the everyday.

For more information on Brittany Powell, click here!

Interview by Anika Sabin