Briefly describe the work you do.
I’m interested in the creation and development of ideological organizations that act as conceptual contexts for projects and large bodies of work. For the past 3 years I’ve been working on a project called Minimalism Elite which uses the aesthetics of early minimalism.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in the Pocono’s, a confusing sprawl of suburban developments, bigoted redneck’s, Appalachian hikers, abandoned resort communities and jazz. When I was a teenager I had a job on the weekends selling cheap factory-line landscape paintings to vacationing honeymooner’s at one of the largest resorts, Mount Airy Lodge. My boss, sporting a blue pastel suit, gold rings and a slicked back pompadour would set up a small amp and microphone and, with a thick New York accent, sell artworks like a barker at the circus. I learned that most of the art buying public is only interested in decorating their walls.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I generally do most of my conceptual planning outside of the studio, usually while driving on long country roads or standing in the shower. The initial idea occurs quickly and then I spend a short period of time narrowing down the material parameters and refining the ideas before working out any technical details. At this point I only need a workshop and a place to build or paint. This could be on my back porch or on my dining room table. I have a studio but I use it mainly for storage.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Being a salesman. I always said that I didn’t want to hawk goods for a living, especially not my own.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I don’t make art consistently and often take off long periods of time to not make art. When I do make art it’s usually in the morning while I’m drinking my coffee or in the evening while I’m drinking my martini.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I’ve moved away from making political work and into using a more formalist language. I still approach my work in the same way and employ the same aesthetics but I’ve shifted my concerns slightly. I don’t believe that art should be limited by linear timelines so I’ll most likely return back to making political work at some point.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My grandfather was a painter and as a child I used to accompany him at local art fairs. I never saw him sell a painting and he died with over 700 paintings unsold in his house. This made me realize that being an unsuccessful artist means making and accumulating a lot of objects that have nowhere to go. With that being said, Mike Kelley and Thomas Eakins were the only artists that I really respected.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
No, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I often fantasize about being a writer or a filmmaker but I don’t have either the time or the patience to pursue another artistic career.
Brian Higbee was born and raised in the mountains of Pennsylvania. He is the founder of the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Minimalism Elite, Future Living Projects and The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. He has exhibited at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, PS 122, Rotunda Gallery, Here Art, ABC No Rio and the Islip Art Museum. He is also the recipient of 2 grants from the Puffin Foundation. He holds a BFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received his MFA from CW Post/Long Island University in 2000. He lives and works in Highland, NY.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.