The Prolific Journey of Brianna Martray

Samsara, Oil on Wood
The Last Mile, Bronze
shadow happy Shadow Happy, Photo by Anthony Camera

The Prolific Journey of Brianna Martray

By Sarah Barth, Art District on Santa Fe

“I try to stay out of the way of the painting,” explains Brianna Martray when asked about her intuitive creative process.  Allowing a moment of inspiration to take hold, yet giving it freedom to reveal its true potential is a lesson that has served Brianna well.  This full time artist has become an icon of the Art District on Santa Fe for the distinct style and captivating subject matter of her painting, sculpture and installation work.  Martray has flourished since beginning her career in the District in 2006, winning the award for “Best Studio Artist of the Year” in 2009 and “Best Solo Show of the Year” in 2010.  She currently celebrates the opening of an installation exhibit at Denver International Airport that will run until December of 2011.  It seems that both limitless inspiration and a highly prolific nature have catapulted the young artist from humble beginnings, painting in the kitchen of a tiny Cap Hill apartment, to such rapid and snowballing successes. 

Wildly inspired by repeated patterns in life, nature, and the cosmos Brianna’s work is about observing connections within the infinite greatness and the infinite smallness of the natural world.  Biomorphic shapes are a common building block within her work.  The tube-like structure of Samsara (pictured above) for example, is the basis for many of her paintings and sculptures.  Influenced by the repetitious and expanding structure of fractals Martray is able to construct an entire world from a single shape.  Circles and staircases are two other common motifs.  She emphasizes that more and more she sees herself as a landscape artist, exploring new terrain in every piece! 

“What lives here?” This is the question that Martray asks herself throughout the creation process.  Be it an imagined creature or and emotional moment, she’s found all sorts of answers resonating within her artworks.  Unlike most artists (over the age of 5) Martray paints with her hands! She enjoys a more intimate relationship with her work, removing the distance of using a brush, to reveal a tantalizing array of imagined flora and fauna in alien landscapes, lyrical triggers in her music series, and intense emotions of personal journeys.  Her paintings instantly transport the viewer to a new perspective, each time divulging some profound and universal truth. 

In recent years Brianna’s focus has been on sculpture and installation work and as a result the oil color has finally washed from her hands!  In 2009 she began learning to cast bronze sculpture under the instruction of Rik Sargent. Her first bronze piece took 6 months to complete but after conquering the learning curve she began to crank out work at an accelerated pace, completing over 60 sculptures in the next 6 months.  “The work just pours out of me,” Brianna explains. “Sometimes I have to make myself STOP making art,” she jokes, referencing a pile of inventory. Her sculptural work is dominated by the interplay of organic and geometric shapes and continues to maintain the feeling of non-traditional landscape.  “The Last Mile,” for example depicts what looks like a city skyline, temporary adorn to a much more powerful natural world.  The geometric forms perch delicately amongst a swirling life force, capable of swallowing them back into the earth at any moment. 

This May Brianna celebrates what she considers her greatest milestone yet; a 6 month installation exhibit at Denver International Airport.  The wide scale exposure presented by this opportunity is an astonishing and triumphant reality.  The path to success however, has been a winding one.  Always a creative soul, Martray spent 8 years writing a novel before hitting her stride as a visual artist.  When a literary agent asked for a copy, Brianna reread her novel only to decide that it was just not good enough.  “It was immature and the main character was too whinny,” she admits with a laugh.  After 8 years she had outgrown the story’s protagonist.  Her novel was never submitted.  In a light hearted fashion she began folding the many stacks of manuscript pages into origami cranes, a fond pastime remembered from childhood.  This came at a time with an increasing urge to paint and so she forgot about the novel and soon her writing had stopped all together. 

Years later, Brianna’s computer and back up hard drive were stolen.  She soon realized that the only copy of her novel now resided in the piles of paper cranes that had been stashed in boxes around the house; eight years of blood, sweat and tears, the compilation of her creative journey all folded up into miniature birds. “The poetry was too big to ignore,” says Brianna and so years later she went back to her novel to fulfill it’s ultimate potential.  The novel is now on display at Denver International Airport… it remains in the form of 4000 folded paper cranes. 

The installation combines the literary cranes with 500 glued circles of broken glass, perched along the bridge that leads to all A gates. The glass symbolizes community, in the form of one being, broken into billions of pieces so that it could experience the world less lonely.  The symbolic relationship between self and community is tied together by the shadows cast by each.  Like much of her art, “Shadow Happy” reminds us that life is a meandering path, and that no bit of inspiration is for nothing.  Often it takes time and space for a whim to blossom to its fullest potential, and many times it winds up taking a direction that we could never have imagined at its birth.  It is experience, theft of a hard drive for instance, that bring out the most in us.  The contrast of shadow represents the journey necessary to bring light to our experiences. 

Brianna Martray has truly hit the ground running.  Considering the accomplishments of this fairly young career, her path will be an exciting one to follow as she continues to leap from one milestone to the next!  Much like that which inspires her, it seems that there is no limit to Brianna’s potential as she continues to passionately create (and sell!) a consistent stream of evolving artwork, while steadily gaining national recognition.  The Art District on Santa Fe is proud to showcase this talent and we encourage you to come and check out her work.  Her studio is located in the Spark and Core Gallery building at 900 Santa Fe Drive, Denver.  You can usually catch Brianna in her studio on 1st Friday where she’d be happy to talk with you about her work.

Tazukaba, Oil on Wood Tazukaba, Oil on Wood

novel revisited
Novel Revisited, Photo by Sarah Barth

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