Originally published March1, 2021 by Tim Buckley (MFA 2014) through the Academy Bulletin, the AANYAA is delighted to re-publish this spotlight on the AANYAA's website. Lauren and Brett are 2011 graduates who met at the Academy and have co-founded an art studio in Naples, Florida.
Tim Buckley: You both earned an MFA in 2011. In 2018, you co-founded H&R Studio in Naples, Florida. Could you tell us about your current studio practices? Any personal highlights from the last decade?
Brett Harvey: My current sculptures are about the precarious nature of human culture and civilization. It is a response to ideas of evolutionary theory, ancient human history, pre-human history, and geology. As we learn more about the evolutionary history of humans, and more about the dramatic climatic and geological changes our planet has experienced within that history, I am captivated by the patterns of culture and civilization that human beings repeat over and over.
I just installed the largest piece I’ve made so far outdoors. To bring these ideas and forms out into the open is a milestone for me.
Lauren Amalia Redding: The Open Life Drawing we host every week at our studio strengthens my practice, as drawing regularly from a model allows me to work more from imagination. This, in turn, allows me to take greater liberties with what and how I draw—to experiment—even if in my own muted way.
I think my most monumental personal highlights happen inside my own head, even if no one else ever knows about them: those incredibly rare moments when I look at something I’ve drawn and think, “Well, maybe that’s not too bad after all.”
TB: When I look at your work, it is immediately apparent that meaning is inextricably linked to material and process.
Brett, WIP photos on your Instagram show the mold for a recent sculpture. The first thought that I had was that the mother-mold looks like an egg. The figure inside is solitary and cast in concrete. Other figures seem compelled to respond to the geometry that they are set upon. Could you give us some insight into your process?
BH: The piece is mentioned above, which was cast into concrete and now sits atop a steel obelisk, is Lithic, which means “of or relating to stone.” The figure, built of materials emblematic of our contemporary civilization, looks back from a perch trying to understand history, wondering what lessons have been learned, forgotten and rediscovered countless times by various cultures. Often, artifacts made from stone are all we have to tell us about many people of the past. Concrete, a synthetic stone, balances precariously atop a steel obelisk, as a sort of antonym to the obelisks from history. It is meant to question the perspective of our culture. Do we really want to imagine ourselves as looking back and down on history, or are we really any different?
TB: Lauren, the mark made by silverpoint is permanent, there is no erasing. It's also interesting to draw a portrait in a medium that is reflective, like a symbolic mirror. The silver will also oxidize and change over time. Could you give us some insight into your process?
LR: Silverpoint is very paradoxical. It’s archival and ephemeral all at once. In my first body of work honoring my mother’s family, which is biographical, the silver’s ethereal qualities evoked memory and fleeting narratives. In my new body of work depicting astronauts, which is semi-autobiographical, the silver as a raw metal corresponds to the hardware and shining materials I’m often depicting. Maybe the mirror quality isn’t just symbolic within this new body of work, but rather somewhat parallel and a little bit literal, as the medium and the content mirror each other.
The subjects of the two bodies of work seems totally disparate, but they share a common conceptual thread. They honor the risks endured by the individual as he or she encounters strange new frontiers, whether as immigrants, like my mother’s family, or as starsailors and pilots.
TB: When I visit a museum, I often revisit the same paintings over and over again. Are there any artists that you continually return to?
BH: Even though I don’t like his work, I always try to look at Rodin to figure out why others like him so much.
LR: There aren’t specific artists, but I always look for drawings, regardless of genre or time period. I feel that drawing is where the bulk of visual problem solving occurs, a topographical map tracing how the artist’s hand moves. That’s often where the artist is most transparent and raw.
TB: Lightning Round! Give me opinions, don't pull your punches!
Brunelleschi vs. Ghiberti?
BH: I really appreciate Brunelleschi, but when it comes down to the Gates of Paradise, I’d choose Ghiberti as the winner as well.
LR: Ghiberti; there’s such a lyricism in his figures, as if they’re set to music. Also, I feel that while Brunelleschi was initially viewed as the underdog, history has reversed those roles due to the Duomo’s eclipsing dominance. I don’t feel so bad choosing Ghiberti as he’s proven to be the long-term underdog.
TB: Any sculptor of the 19th century vs. Rodin?
LR: Camille Claudel, for obvious reasons.
TB: Dürer vs. Raphael?
BH: Raphael, but only because he copied Michelangelo.
LR: It’s a tie for me, not because of their paintings, but because of their drawings; both were revelatory draftsmen.
TB: Loathe the painting, love the drawing? (E.g., The color in a Rubens painting makes me want to vom, but I love his drawings.)
BH: I have an inverse answer: I always really loved the color relationships in Edward Hopper’s paintings, but the guy could not draw.
LR: Hendrick Goltzius. He made exquisite silverpoint drawings (and etchings), but his paintings are just cringeworthy.