Crystal Brown – Kansas City, Kansas

“Interior Horizon”, 7’x3’, video and audio installation, 2013

“Interior Horizon”, 7’x3’, video and audio installation, 2013

Briefly describe the work you do.

I consider myself to be an interdisciplinary artist and a parent/artist activist, I don’t believe being an artist and a mother are mutually exclusive endeavors but that the two inform and influence each other. During my day I am constantly archiving information to use in the studio.  The information I am collecting most often takes the form of video and audio recordings, to-do lists, drawings, and photographs all taken from my domestic life as mother and most often in collaborations with family members.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I come from a Sculpture and Design background with a love for performance.  My undergraduate training was at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I studied sculpture and art history with a great deal of emphasis on design and performance. In 2012 I earned my MFA from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where my primary focus was in the sculpture and expanded practice department. I spent much of this time working with time based media, performance and installation.  Because of my background I find that working across a broad range of media to be very satisfying.  I feel that I am very sensitive to space and how we interact with it. I’m continually inspired by our performance of the everyday and draw a great deal of inspiration from domestic ritual and routine.

“Breathing”, 5’x1.5’, video projection installation, 2013

“Breathing”, 5’x1.5’, video projection installation, 2013

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

My studio is in our house, in our living room actually, and I work at my desk whenever I can. I am constantly colleting information to bring back to the “studio”, sometimes it’s in a sketchbook and other times it is in a recording on my phone or another digital device. For me the studio extends a defined space because I need to remain flexible. As a mother/artist I’m always squeezing in time to get various studio tasks done. Sometimes I work outside in our backyard, sometimes at our kitchen table or in our garage, but more routinely I am at my desk in our living room.

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

Activist and feminist, I had no idea that I would be considering myself a parent/artist activist let alone a feminist. I had a really great mentor during graduate school, she asked us to consider what’s at stake in our work and this activated something in me that resurfaces every time I consider exposing my work to the world.

I founded and direct the Hown’s Den: A Nomadic + Domestic Exhibition Space, I think of this project as an extension of my studio practice. The mission of the project is to redefine the way that we view and discuss art. The project strives to end the preconceived notion that art can only be viewed in a nonobjective space by fully incorporating art installations in our domestic dwelling.  After all most or our interactions with art happen on a domestic level. I find that this promotes experimentation and extends a discourse that most frequently is stunted by the traditional gallery walls.

“The Sea: Between Speech and Language”, 2500 square feet, video and audio installation, 2012

“The Sea: Between Speech and Language”, 2500 square feet, video and audio installation, 2012

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

A little of all the above, recently my goal is to be in the studio from 4am-7am everyday, but sometimes life gets in the way of that and I have to squeeze in time during the day or at night if I miss time in the morning. Three days a week I work in the studio during my toddler’s naptimes, and that is a useful and productive block of time. It depends on the day and the task, but I find that I am much more focused in the wee hours of the morning when my house is quiet.

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

My work changed when I became a mother. This life event forced me to reconsider what I make and how I make it. My studio time is influenced by my role as mother and vice verse.  The work that I produce is directly related to my own life experience and that has not changed.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

My Family and environment are always influencing my practice; my family and the poetics of our interactions with each other inspire me on a daily basis.  Other outside sources of inspiration are always shifting depending on current projects and focus but right now I am finding myself fascinated by the works of Martha Rosler, Chantal Akerman, Laura Larson and Moyra Davey.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I actually think about this question a lot, I think I would be a midwife/yogi/lactation consultant/female health and wellness coach.  I know this seems so different than the actions of an artist, but I think of these roles as acts of feminist activism and in that way it’s not that far of a stretch from what I am interested in conceptually as an artist. 


headshotCrystal Ann Brown is an interdisciplinary artist, and parent/artist activist working in Kansas City. In 2012 she earned her MFA in sculpture and expanded practice from Ohio University School of Art.  In 2013 her work was included in Chasing Horizons, an exhibition at the Charles Allis Museum of Decorative Arts in Milwaukee.  Since then she founded The Hown’s Den: A Nomadic + Domestic Exhibition Space and has curated four events from the fall of 2013 to March 2014.  Crystal has been asked to participate as a guest critic in the sculpture department at the Kansas City Art Institute in recent semesters, and is one of five members of SPECTRA, a nomadic platform for experimental film and video.

“Sketchbook”, work in in progress, ¼” Slices of paper, 2014

“Sketchbook”, work in in progress, ¼” Slices of paper, 2014

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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