Installation Artist Olivia Brown led me through the aisles of Home Depot in search of spray paint while trying to replicate the color and texture of ‘space kelp’ for a future Meow Wolf installation. During this excursion we chatted about art, community responsibility, personal inspiration and magic realism.
Alison Gamche: You graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA in New Media. Can you go into detail about New Media art?
Olivia Brown: There were art movements in response to the industrial revolution. New Media is a movement in response to the technological revolution. We think about how people are affected by iPhones or the internet. We have all these different capabilities that, in the context of human history, have never existed before. It’s basically examining the repercussions and possibilities of our new technologies.
AG: Do you have any work that was a favorite for you? Any shows, jobs or pieces?
OB: In my last year of college, I ran a student gallery. It was adjacent to the university and my role was to give people an opportunity to share their work. It was more of a curatorial role for me. I’d say, “Hey, I know that you’ve been making art and I think it would really do well in conjunction with these other pieces. Do you want to show it?”
For a college student, that’s gold! They’re spending all their energy investing in their creativity. It was about giving people visibility.
AG: Apart from your art with Meow Wolf, you’re heavily involved with their community outreach. What does this work mean to you?
OB: Community outreach is acknowledging that the community we’re in will ultimately be our support in the long run. Community outreach is not about what we are doing in our building, but is about engaging with the public. We’re a company that has a lot of capabilities.
AG: I know you are originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma but you had mentioned that you just hit the one-year mark living in Santa Fe. So how do you like life at 7,000 feet?
OB: There’s a lot of history here. Living in Santa Fe helped me recognize how much history is in other places too. It’s foolish to assume that infrastructure popped out of the ground, and now there are just buildings here. What’s funny about this place is there is so much magical thinking. I’m interested in how this place became. I think it’s an important thing to understand.
AG: On inspiration, do you have anything personal you’re working on right now?
OB: This weekend I told myself I would build a light box. I want to collect fungi and bacteria from different places on agar plates.
AG: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
OB: My dad draws. I used to watch him since I was about three. It really gets ingrained in you and works its way into being a part of your life. I really didn’t decide until I was 16 that it was something that I wanted to do. When I would see the behind-the-scenes in movies, all the people who did all the little meticulous building of the things, or when I’d be watching a biopic of an artist and they had a minion in the corner cutting a hundred million little triangles for them, I knew I would be that person one day. I never imagined it would be in this collaborative of a capacity.
Photographs and video by Kate Russell.