AM DeBrincat: Mixed Media Extraordinaire

AM DeBrincat and I crossed paths a few years ago and I was immediately drawn to her whimsically colorful pieces. Her work stood out from others that were in the same room as hers seemed quite unique as they tackled more than one medium within each piece. Upon our first introduction, I noticed her colorful spirit which most certainly seemed to match her work. Her work explores head on how we live in this digital age by using images taken from both social media and online imagery.

AM resides in Brooklyn but is originally from San Francisco.

At first glance, your work appears to be created in an all digital medium. Until you get closer and see those strokes created by your hand. How did you choose to incorporate so many mediums into each piece? Did you always work in this manner? 

I like to create work that’s built up of many layers, and reveals more to the viewer the more they look at it. Each of my paintings is a combination of transfer printing (a printmaking method that transfers the toner from a digital printout onto canvas), acrylic, and oil painting. Sometimes other mediums like gold leaf or colored pencil get involved too. I like transfer printing as it’s a way to bring digital photography into the realm of painting. Photography and painting have such a long, complicated history. They’re like the ultimate frenemies. When I put them side by side on the canvas, there’s an energy that emerges from the tension between them.

How does social media influence your work?

I’m fascinated by the role that social media and the internet play in our lives. We’ve reached this saturation point where our lives are a combination of our online and offline experiences, and this layering of digital and IRL experience is what forms our lives and informs who we are. My paintings explore the tension between a digital and analog experience of reality. In each painting, digital photography sits side by side with oil painting (which for me is the ultimate old school, juicy, analog medium) and these two mediums combine to form each figure that appears in my paintings. In our contemporary moment, since we’re each made up of our digital and analog experiences, I want each painting to reflect this back to the viewer with the way that it’s created. The coldness and precision of digital photography up against the warm sensuality of oil painting represents our struggle to find balance between our digital and IRL experiences, between the lure of our phones versus the tactile, sensory world around us. Each painting is this struggle to find balance between digital and analog in the present moment.

I love looking at the layers and depth of your work. When do you know when a piece is officially finished? How long do you generally work on each piece?

For me, each painting is a puzzle whose pieces I’m fitting together as I create it. I enter into each painting with a general concept or idea, some framework that I want to explore. But things morph and shift as I’m creating each work. Things will happen during the making that change my direction, lead me down an alternate path, or make me explore something unexpected that wasn’t in my original plan. For me, that improvisation is the exciting part. It’s like a conversation with myself and with the media I’m using – oil paint, digital photography, transfer printing, and canvas. The mediums, especially oil paint, often feel like they have lives of their own and become active participants in the process as I’m making the work. With each painting, I arrive at a moment when the layers converge, and when it feels like all the different puzzle pieces click into place against each other. It’s a feeling of resolution, and that’s when I know the piece wants to stay that way and that it’s done.

Do you always choose women as your subject matter? If so, then why? What attracts you to paint only women?

I usually paint women because my art is an expression of who I am, and being a woman is central to the way I experience the world. Being female, I think about gender constantly, whether I want to or not, because so many of my daily interactions with people are gendered, often in subtle and sometimes in not-so-subtle ways. So I think about gender constantly, about femaleness and what we as a society feel that means. My identity is the lens through which I see the world and create art, so maybe it’s inevitable that my work explores gender and that most of my subjects are women.

What artists have influenced your work? Do you have a mentor?

I absorb art like a sponge, and my definition of art is pretty elastic. I love contemporary art and art from the art historical canon. And I also love moments of art that happen in public places – graffiti, tags, murals, doodles, fliers, and textures that cover the surfaces of our cities. But other kinds of artistic moments resonate with me too, like good tattoos, creative facial hair, floral arrangements, textile design, and certain moments in fashion. Literature is also really important to me. Some of my longest-running literary crushes are with authors Richard Brautigan, Oscar Wilde, Édouard Roditi, and Mary Oliver. And I also love aesthetic moments that wouldn’t be categorized as art but that feel like it to me. Sometimes I’ll see an interesting scrap of garbage on the sidewalk, or a huge piece of construction equipment will be silhouetted just right against the sky. It all feels like art to me, part of the same visual and sensory conversation. And at different moments, it all feeds into my brain and inspires me.

Do you have any solo or group shows coming up in the near future?

Yes, my first solo show in Australia, Halogen Venus, opened on May 12 at 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace. This month I’m also in a three-person show, Unravelled Beauty, curated by Kelcey Edwards of Iron Gate East, which opened on May 10 at The Spur in Southampton, New York. Then later this year, in November, I’ll be having a solo show at 212 Arts in New York City.

What can you tell me that you have never told another journalist about your art?

Wow, that’s a great question. I’ll tell you this…the longer I make work, the more I feel like my work is separate from language and that words are kind of irrelevant to art. It feels weird to say because language and literature are really important to my experience of the world, and also because obviously a big part of being an artist is being able to explain the work with language. But it’s less important to me to be able to explain in words what I’m doing with my work, and more important to me to create something that resonates on a different level. I want to have an “aha!” kind of reaction when I’m making the work, and I love it when people tell me that my work just resonates with them and they can’t explain why. Words are wonderful, but visual art needs to be its own language and stand on its own without words propping it up. That’s the kind of art that attracts me, and that’s the kind of work I want to be making. The longer I’m an artist, the more I feel this way.

You can learn more about AM by going to her website or find her on instagram.


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