Interview ~ Steve Brudniak

Interview with Steve Brudniak

Steve Brudniak was born in Topeka Kansas in 1961 and later raised in Houston Texas where he graduated from high school in 1979. An early interest was cultivated in film, writing, acting, performance and music production beginning around age eleven.

After a short stint working in the graphic arts industry, he opened Victorian Recording Studios in 1981 and began making assemblage sculpture infused with science elements at about the same time. By the late 80's the work was gaining exposure and making its way into important collections including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and local and international art publications such as Art in America.Steve moved to Austin Texas in 1988 and began full time production. In 1999 a five-year home/studio construction project took precedent during which time little art was made or shown. Full-scale production has resumed since 2005 with a new body in the making and plans for a tour of the work.

Brudniak remains involved in experimental performance, music, and percussion and in film making and acting and can be seen in Rick Linklaters Waking Life and other films.

Today, books, calendars, documentaries, films and hundreds of publications and web sites feature his assemblages which can be found in the collections of the San Antonio Museum of Art, The El Paso Museum of Art and The Art Museum of South Texas at Corpus Christi as well as in the Houston Museum and many private and corporate collections world wide.

SM - Any plans on writing/illustrating a novel based on your artwork? If you get a chance I'd recommend "Exquisite Pain" by Sophie Calle and "The Book of Shadows" by Don Paterson, it's one of my favourites containing hundreds of reflections and aphorisms on love, God, art sex, death, work and the spirit, imagination and conduct of the human animal.

SB - There's a George Orwell ready made novel waiting to be, I just need to fill in between the props...

Sophie Calle interchanges text from her books and the art she makes, if I understand correctly, and she writes observations about strangers she follows around! Fun stuff! I love writing, but I'm not ready for fiction to become the art part of any book based on the sculptures. I've pulled off some screenplays, short stories, bad poetry, the unfinished novel and recently co creating an animated series with King of the Hill director Wes Archer, but writing for me is just not linkable to the sculpture.

I think it's a good idea though Sean. I have thought of doing a coffee table book or some sort of catalog that might contain stories that pertain to the pieces: The Imogene Icon, which uses a Tesla coil to shoot lightning bolts knocked me out in The Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles, jolted a guy across a magic venue in Houston and caught on fire next to a Rauschenberg in the San Antonio Art Museum! .... Once the artist William Wegman claimed to see his deceased dog Man Ray in my Vunderglas sculpture... True stories! I don't know ...though I have included some stuff like that in notes on the web site that are probably a bit more Don Pattersonesque.

SM - Since "Waking Life" do you feel that you've been pigeon holed as the guy from the Linklater film? Or do you see it as an extension of what you've always been doing?

SB - Well, I started in film doing my own thing when I was 13 and have been involved in some kind of entertainment/art oriented project since then. I just performed in the 70s rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar in the role of Ciaphus, "We need him crucified; it's all you have to do!" I've been a musician for years and ran a studio in the 80s.

Waking Life was a fantastic but small part that was me playing myself and saying something revised out of philosophical conversations I had with Rick in preproduction. I'm more of a documentary film star! Waking life gets all the Google action, Google might pigeonhole me but I'm primarily known as an assemblage artist in the rest of the world.

SM - The myth of "lucid dreaming" do you think it's possible?

SB - Absolutely. I've had the experience now a couple of times. Part of the instruction for inducing lucid dreaming is to be aware of the concept and thinking about it daily. I had my first not too long after the film came out. I merely found myself standing outside a warehouse where a party was happening. I was next to a group of people aware that I was dreaming and someone handed me a joint, which I took and looked at then threw aside thinking how I was already high with the experience. I couldn't keep it going and woke up. It was a most amazing thing and reminded me of the dissolution of self, experienced in meditation or through certain psychoactive experiences. Linklater actually loaned me a device that you wear over your eyes at night that alerts you with a red light flashing that you're in an REM state. I haven't gotten through the instructions yet.

The essential lucid dreaming read would be Stephen LaBerges Lucid Dreaming.

SM - Any new projects or exhibitions we should know about?

SB - Right now I've got pieces in shows at the Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi and also at the El Paso Museum of Art. Both shows are selections from the museums collections and both have put out nice catalogs that I'm sure you can order. You can get more details on my site news page. See how I'm skilfully spamming the interview??!

I'm also working on a new piece that will use a similar technique that I used to make the Canal Dreams edition. I've sent you some pics if you wish to share.

SM -Any artists or books you'd recommend?

SB - Humm...well here in Texas one of my favourite painters is Lloyd Walsh.

Lloyds work made me cry once. Lemurs with paisley fur, cigarette smoking butterfly...its all too much.

How bout Jessica Joslin?

Is she out of her mind? There's some vision!

I'm so missing a good fiction...its sad. My last year of reading has almost entirely revolved around eastern philosophy and spirituality. Getting all the anx out with art isn't cutting it. I'm reading Zen Mind Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, who was a Buddhist monk.

A very elegant and lenient discussion into Zen practices.

Eckhart Tolle is the incredibly popular new pop guru who has taken the concept of enlightenment as well and turned it into something understandable and accessible. This guy has some kind of power. He just came out with "A New Earth" following the simple, elegant "The Power of Now" Stuff that changes ya!

For fiction, next, I'm looking foreword to reading Dao Strom's The Gentle order of Girls and Boys . Dao is a friend who also gained a lot of attention in the last few years with Grass Roof Tin Roof

SM - Do you feel it's all too easy getting caught up in the rat race and forgetting what's actually important? Does the business side of being an artist clash with the day-to-day routine of what you do?

SB - So this week after having to find and repair the source of water trickling from the side of my studio, I'm being forced to restructure my price list prematurely because of some requests I'm getting...having to redo interviews because my hard drive crashed...heh. I do enjoy the business side to a degree and that itself is another art form. I can organize slides all day long and run the scanner or schmooze at an opening but id rather be chopping up iron and preserving bacteria or squids in little chambers. Most of my life is getting the stuff out of the way so I can get to the stuff that's in the way of making art.

SM - I find it hard to believe that some people claim to never of had a dream? (Thoughts whilst asleep) I know we've briefly touched on this before, but do you think that you're past experiences/dreams influence your work?

SB - To share with your readers what we touched on: Please refer again to the Canal Dreams edition. The one called Canals at the Institute came from a dream that led me through a beautifully landscaped path up a hill along a waterway to a building. Oddly enough last month I took a trip to the San Antonio zoo with some friends and within a few minutes was faced with a scene that looked just as my dream had. A walk up a hill with the same stream along side led to almost the same structure at the top. I immediately realized that I had imprinted the memory from a trip my family had taken to San Antonio and the zoo there when I was 7. Story for the book...

SM - From what I've read, you take great pleasure in taking art out of the studio and actively encouraging people to create something, why do you feel it's important that regardless of education or background it's ok to be creative?

SB - Of course it's always ok to be creative. If you're referring to how the art world sees a non-degreed artist then yes it can be more difficult to get by. I have managed to do what I want without a degree and have lectured and conducted workshops at universities where students ask the same ironic question. I will inevitably tell them that creativity and ideas are not taught but that school can bring a lot of influence and opportunity and more importantly tools to be creative with. I think a good educator will provide technique and technical support first, with less emphasis on content. The sad thing is to hear someone say they love to paint but don't, because they don't think anyone will like the work. An artist is one who loves to make art. When I'm lost in making something; like when the world disappears and I'm not separate from what I'm doing, that is when I am a successful artist.

When I sold a piece for $10,000, then I was a successful businessman.

SM - Throughout history artists/writers have passed on a message or recorded a moment whether it be something good or bad, in say 40 or 50 years time when your work is still being viewed in galleries or in books what message do you want to pass on?

SB - The same message I try to pass on while I'm still alive with my work: To bring the viewer a moment of stillness. To convey the same getting lost experience that brought me to make it. Some of the pieces have lofty titles and or may represent spiritual or psychological concepts but the reaction on a subconscious level is more important to me. Visual art has tried to become something more than it can be in the last 20 years. The true power of visual art is getting swamped in concept, marketing and ego these days. In a purely visual, audible or tactile art experience the senses become an unedited entry into the consciousness. Words and concepts will have little meaning and can become mere crutches if the object hasn't conveyed power standing alone.

SM - What else would I want to say to the world?

SB - Oh! Let's put an end to these senseless wars and my deepest apologies to the world for our out of control Bush administration.

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