Briefly describe the work you do.
Making art is my way of processing my experiences. Whether it be my experience as a child to my experience as a patient. Through the use of oil paint and found objects I am able to assess my stance towards a certain experience. Currently I am working on a series that looks at my past traumas with my Immune Deficiency, CVID. These pictures represent my experience battling my illness. Making art helps me digest trauma and I believe it helps others gain a further understanding into what plays in the mind of someone afflicted with an Immune Deficiency or a similar disorder. My work is aimed at not alleviating my experiences, but trying to process them in a way in which I can understand. It is very much like therapy.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
Ive been drawing since I was young, but I hadn’t thought of myself as an artist until six months ago, after my three month long hospitalization. After I was discharged, I felt an overwhelming urge to create. A brush with death is what it took for me to evaluate my life and really sort out what was important. Art is important.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in July of 1993, in the small town of Roscoe, Illinois. Despite my disorder, a lot of my youth was devoted to exploring and imagining. There used to be a large grass field behind the house I grew up in. My sister and I used to ride through it on our ATV. We would go out, wearing fishing hats and carrying shovels, looking for dinosaur fossils.
After high school, I moved to New York City, where I was a fashion model for Ford Models. Occasionally I would act in a short film. I lived there for three years, but had to move back to the Midwest due to my health. The city was a great resource for someone like me, who was looking to pursue the arts. New York City is a pool of creativity and inspiration.
I am the oldest of three children. The youngest of my two sisters caught a viral encephalitis, when she was two, that spread to her brain and caused disabling epilepsy. She is now fifteen. She is bedridden, is fed through a G-tube, and has a tracheotomy, but when she smiles at you, you can see a youthfulness and purity that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. She is the primary inspiration in my life.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
My work mainly focuses on the psychological impact of disease and the impact to those who are close with the person diagnosed.
I use Greek mythos to aid me in telling the story that the painting is displaying. I use what I call the “Three Gorgons of Life”, birth, death, and disease. Disease is the only one of these three that is defeatable, much like the only mortal gorgon, Medusa. I think each one of these Gorgons are present in my work.
Cognitive dissonance, the opposition of light and dark, as well as serenity in choas all play a factor in my work.
The use of oil paint along with both non-organic and organic materials, such as bark, leaves, glass, and branches, help project my ideas.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
That’s tricky because I think most artists would sympathize with Chuck Close here. I agree with working hard everyday, but I think for me, the pictures have to come from a place of inspiration. My family has always been a huge motivator.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Anselm Kiefer, Egon Schiele, Hedi Slimane, Francis Bacon, Frank Gehry, Christy Brown, Yves Tanguy, Thom Yorke, Jason Shawn Alexander, and Zak Krevitt are all artists who have influenced my work.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I enjoy reading as well as grabbing a cup of coffee at the cafe, talking with friends. Movies have always been a large part of my life Kazan’s, East of Eden, Jim Sheridan’s, My Left Foot, and Fellini’s, 8 1/2 have had a lasting impression on me. Lately I have taken up fishing and I’ve been told that I am quite the sand volleyball player.
Brennen Steines is a self taught artist from Rosoce, Illinois. His work focuses psychological tole of disease and believes painting serves as a way to process experience. His work can be seen in Hedi Slimane’s L.A. issue of Man About Town Magazine. He is also a fashion model for Ford Models and is going into his freshman year of undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.