Artist Brittany Tucker on What Comes After Representation
by Shelley Holcomb | August 26, 2020
Artist Brittany Tucker grew up with a respect for portraits instilled by her mother, an artist herself. Drawing on history and her training as a studio artist, Tucker creates paintings that combine her fully-rendered self-portraits with a cartoonish, generic figure of a white man. The misrepresentation of the white figure and the realistic image of the artist make Tucker the main subject and focus of the work, while the white man is relegated to the background, almost a joke.
We spoke with Tucker about using art as a tool for personal healing, historical reflection, and saying what needs to be said:
Shelley Holcomb (Curate LA): Ok, let’s talk about where you’re from, what you studied, and how your practice began.
Brittany Tucker: I studied at Bard College for undergrad, in the studio arts program. I focused mainly on painting, but I did a little bit of everything. I graduated in 2018 and continued my studio practice in Brooklyn. Then I moved to Vienna.
My mom is an artist. She was always doing portraits when I was growing up and still does.
Shelley: And have you always done portraits as well?
Brittany: Yeah. The way that I grew up, I didn’t go to very many museums — I mostly accessed art through what my mom was doing. And she has a very strong sense that portraiture is the highest level of art. So that was all she did and does. We have a very similar painting style. I mean, I do my own thing. My mom didn’t have any training at all, but she does the same thing I do.
Shelley: I’m noticing that in 2017 your work was much more colorful, then the colors sort of stop. Can you talk more about that?
Brittany: I don’t think anybody learns to just paint in black and white; I started by painting in color. Then I went to Paris and I saw a lot of masterful artwork and really got into the idea of making paintings like that. The black and white was meant to be an underpainting that just stayed how it was.
Shelley: Your work mixes caricatures and references to Renaissance paintings and works that are considered traditional canon [ie: “Olympia” by Édouard Manet] with realistic self-portraits. I’m curious about your process of putting yourself in the work.
Brittany: The question was always representation — like, how do I fit into the art world and where do I fit into the media? What kind of message can my face send? When you’re growing up you see faces plastered everywhere to sell products. I was trying to figure out where I fit into all of that. So I was doing a lot of self-portraiture. I am trying to fit myself into different places and seeing what that looks like.