"My birthday's in July. A lot of my work happens in the summer. I paint out here," explains Lorraine Brennan as she sips an iced coffee on her porch in East Atlanta last week. Born in New York, the 27-year-old artist moved to Mississippi with her family 17 years ago. Her life's been steeped in the South ever since. Believe it or not, she's never lived in a house with air conditioning. That's why she can relate so well to the title of her upcoming exhibition. Brennan's Hot and Sticky show opens July 1 at Young Blood Gallery, just two days before her birthday. Details like that are important to the young artist, who believes strongly in her emotional perceptions. "I'm very passionate about the figure," she says. "My work is really about me seeing what my friends are going through and recording their gestures. I preserve moments in time as metaphors for life experience."
The artist takes a lot of photos and makes collages from them to create each composition. Her camera's fish-eye lens helps her emphasize certain elements, like hands or facial features. From the pieced images, she comes up with startling photorealistic monoprints and dramatic softer-edged oil paintings.
Brennan's subtractive monoprints are incredible. Loving their spontaneity, she deliberately leaves roller marks that document her process. "I've never been able to choose between painting and printing," she admits. "I work out so many things with monoprints. I go with my gut; the process is quick and gestural, like the figure."
There are both emotive and narrative qualities in the Southern scenes she depicts. Third oldest in a family with nine kids, Brennan knows that her earlier home life affected how she views the body and its relationship to space. "I always take into consideration the environment," she says.
Indeed, her figures dominate their space, whether it's the inside of a car, a street corner, a couch or a verandah. The "hot and sticky" (read: sensual) attitude of her subjects may be found in their posture, their clothes, even their hair. Most of the well-toned boys are shirtless. Most of the moody girls have flaming red hair.
"True Patriot" is the perfect Fourth of July painting. A young man wearing only a slouch hat and blue jeans holds an American flag on a stick. He's sitting on the steps of a monolithic white clapboard house. Her "Riding and Driving" series includes "Riding," a picture of two young guys slouched in the back seat of a car. One trails his arm out the window. They're zoned out in sepia tones.
Brennan studied art for her B.A. at Mississippi State University and went on to earn her M.F.A. at Clemson University. In both conservative Southern institutions, she received lots of encouragement. "I liked the idea that the towns were oppressive. I hated it and wanted to get out. I think those feelings helped my work," Brennan remembers.
Now situated with her new husband in East Atlanta, she's enjoying work this summer as a mentor in the City of Atlanta ArtsCool. In the past year, she's had her contemporary genre scenes featured in three local alternative spaces: the Big Red Tomato, the Fulton County Public Library and the Crescent Room. Brennan wants to be noticed, but she isn't in a huge hurry. "I want people to recognize my talent, but I don't want to be appreciated too much yet. I like being around real people," she says. "Materialism really irritates me." u
Hot and Sticky opens July 1 at 7 p.m. and runs through July 30 at Young Blood Gallery, 629 Glenwood Ave. Open Tues.-Sun. from noon-5p.m. 404-627-0393.
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