Brittany Gould, a Berlin-based artist, is perhaps best known in Denver as a musician with the art-punk band Mannequin Makeout who created the solo, ambient project Married in Berdichev. As a visual artist, Gould has cultivated an aesthetic that combines abstraction with a tactile quality characterized by the use of geometric figures and ideas to build an organic image: Think something like a computer model of the physical world. With Swells, her first solo show that opens April 4 at Leon Gallery, Gould has further developed her ideas using a mixed-media approach in a seeming attempt to use her art to visually articulate the intersection between individual artistic expression and universal truths that don't yet lend themselves to verbal explication. In advance of the opening, we chatted with Gould via e-mail about her use of light work, the reason a mixed-media show suits her and how her music differs from her efforts in visual art.
Westword: What is it about the mixed-media format that you feel best displays the kind of work you've been doing and the meaning behind the work for your current show?
Brittany Gould: I don't think I prefer any format. I really enjoy the drawings on lead in this show. The lead is already a very beautiful material by itself. I think that's what attracts me to mixed media. It feels so much like cheating when I find something that is so fun to work with, or just gives me pleasure already without having to do anything. I will always be attracted to paper. It feels so universal. I love materials that one doesn't need special training or conditions to work with. It becomes mostly about imagination and playing.
Since you don't live in Denver at this point, how did the show at Leon come about?
Last summer, Eric Dallimore from Leon simply asked and I gladly accepted. I am honored that he asked me to show at Leon. It is such a gorgeous space and I hope I can do right with it for the month of April. It's very exciting for me to have this opportunity in the city closest to my heart. I live in Berlin right now, and I think I will be there for a long time, but I feel deeply connected to Denver. It made me as I am.
You have a background in printmaking and other forms of art. Did you learn any methods new to you in producing any of your new pieces — and what interested you in those methods?
I've been learning some new things lately, but mostly when it comes to designing my light works. In recent months I've learned to make molds and work with resin and concrete, which is super-fun. I am a very slow learner, though.
This show, I am bringing all sorts of types of the art making I've done in the past together, nothing really wild and crazy and new, but I hope it will be successful.
The name of your show is Swells. What is the significance of that name?
It's a sort of play between swells of emotion and swells of water. Sometimes I just feel like there is an ocean inside my stomach when I reflect on being a living being in this never-ending universe. It's the only word I can think of when I try to explain how I feel most of the time.
What sorts of things do you think it lets you express together that isn't as possible with a single media type of show?
A separateness and cohesiveness at once. Not all of my work is similar, and I struggle with that sometimes. I am interested to see how it will look as a whole together in one room made to look at artwork. I've never seen all these pieces displayed together at once; I'm excited to see how they play together.
In conceptualizing and executing light works do you have to think differently, in essence, than you do when working with other mediums?
They are probably a little more tedious and not as fun than the cut drawings or sculptural works I make. But in essence I think it feels similar, as it's just about getting into the zone of the process.
But it takes a lot longer to see where the form's taking itself, and mistakes aren't really allowed. Sometimes I will have to basically finish a light work to realize it's not really working and I'll have to backtrack a whole few days' of work. Other works, usually the mistakes become my favorite parts of the work and essential to the piece.
Do you incorporate sound with your mixed-media shows as you've also made/make music?
I am not sure why it is, but my music-making and my art-making come from very different places in my creative output. Sometimes I feel like whoever makes the music is not really me but almost another person, that I don't have the creative control; I almost leave it to this Other. I haven't seen that Other in a while, she's in there somewhere. In art-making I feel very myself. I think this must be the reason I feel lot more vulnerable sharing my art than my music. But then again, sometimes, the music feels a lot more like "me." I think it does a better job getting across the ideas I try so hard to get across in my artwork, as it's more about experience than the actual lines on the page, or what have you.
Have you been inspired by other artists that work in mixed media of late?
Judy Pfaff is an incredible artist who works in sculptural drawing in different materials.
Just as an artist and ideal in a way, I will always love Agnes Martin. I think she was always on point in her writings about art and her work itself. She seemed pretty true to her work and her ethic.
The opening reception for Brittany Gould's Swells starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at Leon, 1112 East 17th Avenue. For more information, visit leongallery.com or call 303-832-1599.