FROM CHINA TO THE UNIVERSE
How did you become an artist?
Becoming an artist, well, I’d say it’s still a work in progress, as you’re always striving to express and create your work in new and more powerful ways. Looking back, it all started when I, as a young child, would see the art both of my older sisters created. Both excelled at painting and sculpture. I would try to draw and replicate the things they were creating. My official journey to become an artist started at age 17 with the death of my father. The events of his tragic passing elevated the role of art in my life. Art became a coping mechanism to navigate the world of pain I found myself in. My work during this period reflects a journey inward, creating a visual language that was intended solely for an audience of one, me. I dropped out of high school but fortunately found my way into James Madison University. My eyes were opened by James Crable, a well-known artist who happened to be teaching at the university my first year there. I began to see the wider world community of art, Paul Klee, Robert Rauschenberg, Chiam Soutine, Frank Stella, Jean Dubuffet, Anselm Kiefer, and many more greats. Part of my training was to use their styles and methodology as a reference point to guide my development. Through my undergraduate experience, four years of academic work and training, I created the infancy of an artistic language that was my own; the language of Brian Reed.
In May of 2006, I was struck by a truck, leaving me with a broken back and partially paralyzed from the waist down. I could no longer paint the colossal oil paintings that I had gotten used to. Instead, I focused on works on paper, drawings and evolving my artistic practice to heavily focus on the medium of watercolor. After regaining mobility, in 2008, and moving to NY I started doing sculptures and installation pieces. When the Museum of the Americas in Washington D.C. selected my works for exhibition in 2009 - 2010, I knew I had entered a new period of my career. With the encouragement and excitement generated by the reviews of my sculpture works, I worked to build my first solo installation show titled “Through the Heart of it All” premiered in February 2010. This, I felt, was the tipping point, the moment when I knew I as an artist had arrived. Small waves were set in motion that would grow with each year, with each new installation, each additional performance piece, new sculpture and painting. All these were expanding the impacts of my exhibitions more than ever.
Greatest inspirations or influences?
Growing up on a cattle farm in rural Appalachia, West Virginia, nature and the order of life, its mysteries and beauty, have always been present and constant themes in my life. As far as music goes, training as a classical pianist gave me another outlet to express my creativity and mine the depths of the human experience. What may be surprising, what really touches my heart and brings me constant joy, is the music I play while I work. Artists like Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton, their themes of hope and love connect with me and inspire me constantly.
Most interesting response to your work so far?
The most meaningful response to my work has to go to my mother; I have to mention that my mother is my biggest fan and supporter. When she saw one of my installation works in a museum for the first time, (in the Stifel Fine Arts Center) she said, “Wow, this is really cool, I had no idea what to expect, but you’ve made something powerful and beautiful with all that junk you were saving all these years.”
Most memorable exhibition?
A group show that I participated in New York City where artists were given the opportunity to exhibit on a first come, first served basis. I and several other artists spent several nights sleeping on the sidewalk in order to participate in the show. I made many meaningful friendships with the other artists those days, who remain some of my closest friends to this day.
Favorite websites, blogs, publications?
I am an avid news reader, I read the New York Times and other news outlets every morning. My guilty pleasure is watching the Rachel Maddow show on my computer every night before I fall asleep. No matter where I am, I will always end my day with a little bit of Rachel in my life. She’s been accused of being “the other woman” in my life before.
After undertaking a mini retrospective (10 years) and launch party for my upcoming project called “From China to the Universe”, I successfully made it to Beijing. I am currently creating my first international installation project; the project seeks to lead viewers through a reinterpreted planetarium with constellations, galaxies and planets constructed from Chinese Mooncake molds all around. As one explores this universe, they’ll come across the 10 worlds of existence in Buddhism, with references to the lotus flower, made of neon lights. Using materials and themes all based from China, the project takes the universal notions found within Buddhism and pairs them with something specifically Chinese. The work is proceeding well, but coming to a new country to make a new project presents many challenges, but all the surprises have been for the right reasons and have modified my project in ways that make it much more inspired from my experiences here in China.
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Support programs that promote creativity and the arts to children and teenagers. You can make such an impact though contributing and supporting such artistic organizations. The artistic era is our next great age, by fostering and nurturing the beautiful notions contained in the power of art, we can transform society for the better. There are many organizations out there; one I personally support is GOAL. GOAL provides creative after school programing for inner city youth in Harlem, fostering and educating the positive values of the arts in our daily life.
Raj Mahal Ceiling Installation