Evolving Artistry, Distorted Lighting & Artifacts with Brian Hart

A conversation with artist Brian Hart, who has created spaces inside Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and Las Vegas.

Meow Wolf worked with artist Brian Hart on two different exhibitions - one in Las Vegas at Omega Mart’s “Seven Monolith Village” and one in Santa Fe’s “Art City” in House of Eternal Return. Each has their own distinct experience that reflects Hart’s imaginative use of color, distorted lighting effects and implicit narrative storytelling. Through his deep appreciation for mythology and ancient sculptures, his art has made a lasting impact on the greater Meow Wolf world. We got a chance to understand his approach to both projects and what his future works hold for him.

Your work is clearly inspired by mythical storytelling, world-building and divine creatures, especially “Burial Chamber of the Righteous Grand Believer.” There’s almost an archival quality to the installation, like you’re preserving a sacred artifact. What excites you about narrative-driven art/art-making?

In my normal studio practice, mythology often serves as the inspiration or a jumping off point for a painting. I really loved working on the Burial Chamber– collaborating with the narrative team and having the opportunity to contribute to the story in a way where the artwork could shape parts of the narrative instead of just being an illustration of the story. One of the things I tend to explore in my work is creating spaces where recognizable elements coexist in a way that a narrative is implied but it is up to the viewer to decipher their own meaning. To be able to create an actual physical room where people can fully explore and interact in a real way was truly a pleasure.

“Burial Chamber of the Righteous Grand Believer” inside Meow Wolf Las Vegas. Photo by Atlas Media

How has your art style evolved since working on these multifaceted installations? 

Just in the last year, many little threads of things that I had worked on around the time of the installations have suddenly intertwined to become a major part of my current work. When I was working on Cult of the Primary, I did some writing about possible other “Cult” offshoots– all related to different ways of grouping and thinking about color. One of those happened to be CMYK or Process color. Process color is a very mechanical way of breaking down and simplifying an image to be recreated with only 4 colors. I never really fleshed it out completely but I did do a test painting that was a hand-painted CMYK color separation. At the time, I think I didn’t have the patience or technical ability to fully figure out how to make it work but I have spent the last year doing nothing but hand-painted color separations!

painting using lots of small circles to portray two beings
Audience - 24" x 24" - Acrylic on Linen Panel. Provided by Brian Hart

Similarly, when I was working on The Burial Chamber, a number of things have bled into my own personal work, namely a focus on sculpture and portraiture. When I was creating the painting of Thali in the chamber, I based portions of the face off my partner’s features. When decorating the skeleton, it was an ordinary human skeleton that was modified (mostly by the fine folks at MW). I like the idea that the figures you see in renaissance paintings or ancient sculptures are based on regular people who have stories of their own in addition to the myths and historical figures they may be meant to represent.  I strive to create paintings that function in a way where multiple stories are told at once.    

The illusionary and colorful components to “Cult of the Primary” create a mesmerizing yet disorienting experience. What was the intention behind it? What did you hope people would get from it?

The idea behind using the color shifting lights was to highlight different elements and reveal different imagery in the paintings.  All these elements would be visible under regular lighting but the shifting colors help to distinguish them faster.  I think this makes the room a bit more dynamic than if it had normal lighting. It sort of helps you speedrun the paintings!

green, red, and yellow stripes on walls with paintings
"Cult of the Primary" inside Meow Wolf Santa Fe. Photo by Kate Russell

What can fans of your expect with your art moving forward?

I have been blending images of sculptures with my own photography and found images to create paintings of non-existant historical monuments. They are incredibly time-consuming to paint even at a smaller scale but I am hoping to start on a number of very large paintings soon! 

For those that want to support, are there any new art exhibition links you can share with us? 

Next month I will have work up at Perry Lawson Fine Art for a group show that will be up for Upstate Art Weekend.  I also always have my work up at The Parker Frame Shop.

Instagram is the best way to keep in touch with what I am working on and my website is always a work in progress.

Instagram: brianhart_artist

Website: thebrianhart.com

Lots of small colorful dots making p a face
A Head I - 16" x 16" - Acrylic on Panel. Provided by Brian Hart

Artist Statement:

My work encompasses printmaking, painting and large scale murals, recently I have been focusing on image making using CMYK color separation techniques to depict the human form.  Mimicking the aesthetics of silkscreen while painting images by hand, I am able to gain more influence on the finished images while also creating a tension between the mechanical and personal nature of the artwork.  Imagery, sourced diversely, is fed through this same process, broken down, rescaled and recombined.  As layers of information accumulate, paintings evolve and near abstraction.  Revealing themselves sometimes only by forcing the viewer closer or further away.