Wayne Brezinka: The Weight of the Gift
Jul 10, 2023
This upcoming show, Retrospect, covers the last 15 years of your work. In its great variety, how would you summarize this season?
The first thing that comes to mind is head down to the grindstone in terms of marketing to editorial companies and music labels, and not really taking inventory or standing still long enough to ask, “Where have I been, what am I doing, where am I going?” So in some regard, it was very much a survival mechanism to keep going.
I’ve been talking with my friends a lot lately about walking out of old lives and walking into new lives, kinda like how a snake sheds its skin. We evolve and move into different seasons and different aspects of our lives, and that’s [the last 15 years] an old part of myself. I guess I don’t really know where I’m going (laughing).
It was a working season. It wasn’t so much “I have this vision for how this is going to be.” It’s just kind of how life happened over those years.
As a lifelong artist, take me back to the beginning, the first season where the dream was realized.
Well, I argue with people that say I’m not an artist, I can’t create. Because I think we’re all born creative. So I’ve been interested in drawing since I was 6 or 7. I would watch the Muppet show, reenact the scenes, make puppets and the stage out of cardboard. I was always making something. Then I moved into and through art in high school and being affirmed by teachers, saying “You have a gift.” So I sort of absorbed that in my body and it moved me forward. Then when I got out of high school, I moved into graphic design when it was first coming out on the scene with computers.”
Tell me about your medium. I’ve seen a lot of artists do collage in different formats but nothing like yours. How did you discover that this was your artist's voice?
It evolved in the studio. I moved here to pursue record design in 1993. I worked for an advertising agency and met one of the creative directors at EMI records. He encouraged me to take a creative art position there, and it was there at the record label that I would slowly discover old bottle caps in the parking lot, pieces of paper that were beat-up in a ditch or whatever. And I would bring them into my swanky office and lay them on my scanner, and they would create these really beautiful shadows and dimensions. My colleagues would ask, "What are you doing? That’s not art.” And I’d say, “Yeah, it is!”
After four years, I was fired. I went freelance right away because it was the only thing I knew to do. But I had these little collages around. Two friends—one a painter, Harold Krauss, and Travis Foster, a cartoonist—said, “You love art and love illustrations. Why don’t you market toward editorials?” So I sent out these campaigns and people responded. Some of the work in this show is from that season.
What makes your work “art”?
I had a friend who had just started a podcast ask, “Could I interview you? You seem to do a lot of portraits.” And he said, “I notice artists tend to make the same work over, over and over again because they seem to be trying to complete part of themselves and tell a story within themselves. Could it be that you utilize these found objects and pieces of history for these portraits, and you’re telling these stories of these human beings through multi-layers that encompass a whole person? Could it be that you’re telling your own story?”
That hit me over the head. Yes! I’m trying to find myself in these people that I’m bringing to life through this multi-dimensional art, and the same holds true in the parts and pieces even if it's not a portrait. So yes, this is [my] art—assembling, bringing together separate pieces to create a whole new entity.
I’m going off on a tangent here, but I think a lost art in society is the ability to honor the process. Everything is ends oriented. What is the result going to be? There seems to be a lack of appreciation that the process is all there is, and we don’t control the outcome. In your work you can almost see the process, and I think that is one of the most fascinating qualities of it. Even the untrained eye can’t miss that, and it calls us to what we are intended for: we are intended for the process.
I love that! You need to write that out! Any artist, if they’re honest, it's that struggle, it’s the crumpling of the paper, it's that process is where the light hits the canvas or the paper, and by inviting people into that, that’s what people can relate to. That’s the art! The art is all of that, the struggle in the studio, leading up to what you see on the wall.
What has been your greatest sacrifice to honor your gift? You clearly see this as a gift you’ve been given to share with the world.
I was watching an interview with Paul Simon, and they asked, “Do you ever think about your legacy? And he said, “You know, I don’t. And if the work I’m creating today brings nourishment to people, then so be it. But if it doesn’t bring nourishment after I’m dead and gone, then they’ll find somebody else.” I love that response, but I want my kids and my wife, if I die before they do, to be able to sell my work and reap the benefits. You know dead artists make a lot of money, . I think the sacrifice has been for my kids and my wife and how we have struggled as many Americans do, having the gift that I have, and knowing that’s why I’m on this earth but also how hard it is to make it go. And then my kids have suffered because we’ve not had a lot. They’ve been gracious, but I feel sad a lot for how hard it's been. Many people give up, and I’ve not given up, and I don’t intend to.
If you offered one piece of advice to artists who are finding their way, what would it be?
Keep going! It’s really hard, and it’s easy to give up. Stay connected to others; talk; don’t be isolated. I think that’s key because it’s easy to live in our heads and talk ourselves out of things. But don’t give up!