Troy Brooks paints these extraordinary elongated women that appear to have all the qualities and nuances of classic femme fatales of the 30’s and 40’s. Their anatomy is so unique and upon viewing their gaze, one knows it is a piece of art created only by Troy Brooks. His art is seductive and haunting at the same time. His subjects are cold looking yet very powerful in expression. There is always something going on with each one of his subjects that appear to be destructive. I feel as if there is a piece of Troy in everything he creates. I have a dear affection for both him and his subjects.
Troy, having watched you for years, I feel like your paintings are gaining depth and also becoming more surreal. Can you kindly tell our audience how you choose your subject matter and what these women represent to you?
Yeah, the Shinigami series was a little demented but my work goes in cycles. One year the girls will be aggressive and the year after that they’ll be reflective. Hard/soft, hard/soft. It works out to be good crop rotation but ultimately the subject matter chooses me. In 2016, it was The B-Girls and those women were pissed off. The day before I shipped all the B-Girls to Los Angeles for the opening, my Mom suddenly got put in palliative care. She had been hiding the fact that she had cancer from us for years. She died only a couple of weeks later, so we were all stunned for a while. The gravity of that pulled a very dark requiem out of me, which is what Shinigami was. I think the girls in those paintings were asian because it felt like travelling far away and, while I couldn’t avoid the subject of death, I almost had to be a little removed to work through that theme. Painting is my meditation. Now I’m composing a new solo show for Corey Helford Gallery in February 2018 and the new girls are really vibrant. Visually speaking, it’s sorta like a cool lime sorbet after having a gorgonzola pizza.
Those elongated bodies and faces just draw me into your work. I always recognize your work because of these traits. How did the actual shapes of your subject matter come to be?
All my drawings from when I was younger have faded lines on the chin where I drew the nose first. I was always erasing and pulling back my bad ratio. One day I decided very consciously to stop fixing those mistakes. So when people talk about my style of elongation and ask if Modigliani was an inspiration I have to smile. I wish I could say it was all part of my master plan, but it’s really just a happy accident.
What did your very first painting look like? Do you have a picture to show our audience so they can see the evolution of your work?
My very first painting was pieces of a woman’s face staring out from behind holes in a wall with a chain being fed through one of the holes. It sounds pretty heavy. Believe it or not that was not me trying to say anything or be representational. Of course now in retrospect it seems like a much-too-obvious narrative, but back then I was just playing with images I thought would look cool. Basically I use the same approach today. The women I paint are just avatars for expression. Ironically the only way for me to generate any depth in my work is to avoid thinking about it and stay completely intuitive. There are clearly layers there but sometimes it takes a long time for me to understand what my work means. Anyway, that was my first painting when I was very young and it was destroyed in a fire, along with most of my early work.
Troy, I do remember when your mom had passed and feeling so connected to you and your emotions. How did her passing affect your work?
Around the time she died I read a quote from someone, I can’t remember who, but it was something like, “Don’t worry about what people think so much because once your mom dies, no one gives a shit.” Losing her was devastating. There was never a time when she wasn’t being the cheering section for her children, no matter what her own challenges were. She was a deeply loved person by all sorts of people. I mean, we actually found so many unsent thank you notes she had written to people, detailed and so unbelievably warm, even to the guy who fixed her internet connection. I remember holding her hand in the hospital and it felt like the delicate shedded skin of a snake. I had horrible dreams of a giant snake wrapping around her, squeezing the life out of her body. So for that series a dragon became the symbol of death. Before my mother’s passing, I hadn’t had anyone close to me die. Immediately afterwards, I went to three more funerals. So the theme of death was truly inescapable but I wasn’t ready to think about my mom’s absence. I just read a lot of death mythology and created my own visual opera around the Japanese folklore of Shinigami. I think that’s why a few of those girls came out a little extra surreal. I still haven’t really dealt with her passing at all. In a weird way I’m sort of pretending she’s on vacation. During the painting of Shinigami, I felt like the dirty kid swinging in a deserted playground after a nuclear blast.
What is next for you?
I’m working on another solo exhibition titled “Skinwalker” for Corey Helford Gallery in LA that will be opening on February 24, 2018. It’s in the very early stages so I can’t really talk too much about it, but below are never seen before pictures of my work in progress. I’ve also been trying to put together a graphic novel.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
In a giant loft, with big windows, playing the aging artist.
Where can others find you on all social platforms?