Interview with Brittany V. Wilder
by Zell Thomas
ZT: Currently where are you located? (Take your time here and feel to give a little bit of a background here).
Right now I'm sitting in my bed in my apartment in SE Portland. There's a pretty good view, the lights of the city, the pink building when it's light out, and the very tip of the Portland sign. To my right is a stack of boxes. I'm preparing to pack up and move out of this apartment and out of the city, out of the state, off the West Coast.
As a result all of my commentary about the present moment is fully steeped in nostalgia. This was the seventh place I've lived in Portland, the first I've lived in alone, and I'll miss it. It's a tiny little studio with an apartment sized stove I had to climb over to get out onto the fire escape. My favorite ritual is to take coffee out there, with a book and journal, and KMHD playing.
It's strange thinking about how one place, one room, one city, can be a silent observer to so much change. So many different versions of myself have slept in this bed.
ZT: How would you describe this space in one word?
ZT: Enveloping is such an encompassing verb as it describes and motions towards complete coverage. It's hard not to
think about the enveloping SarsCovid-19 virus when considering the many things in this world that have the poetientional
to envelope or fully encompass.
I feel like you know really well, because of your art, the intrinsic nature of human curiosity that unravels
hidden findings and denotations in patterns. Everything is connected. I feel it more than ever
too, as a silent observer.
Where were you living when the pandemic hit? Is it possible to simultaneously tell me about any impressions of time and
space that you were exploring in the midst?
Bw: I was right here, in this apartment when things started shutting down. I was working full time as a florist and had a pretty established studio practice as well. In early March when all the bars and restaurants started closing, I got temporarily laid off from my job. I remember it was a Monday, which is our busiest day at the shop. Our owners made the call to close and I left work, went to the photo supply store to buy film and paper, and the liquor store to buy campari and vermouth, then went home and applied for unemployment.
I spent about a month unemployed and just working in my studio. It was the first time in many years, since I was a full-time student, that my only real job was to make art. Of course it was stressful financially but I think at the beginning, before the reality of the length of COVID, I just trusted that it would be temporary and focused on making things and being present in the studio.
It was kind of like things narrowed down to a single point and opened up at the same time. By that I mean that my entire focus shifted to a much smaller place–I was focused so internally. (Also literally, I don't think I left a square half mile for a solid month.) That sort of internal focus also shifted a lot of my thinking to a more open place. Suddenly a lot of things seemed more clear and more possible. Which is ironic because there were many things that were of course less possible and very confusing. It was a contradictory time. Still is, really. It seems at once the best time for movement and the worst. The best time for change and the scariest. And on it goes.
Of course, I returned to work fairly quickly, and all of the trappings of that completely ordinary life clicked back into place. With that, a lot of that feeling of openness vanished. Working full time occupies such a large part of your brain, and suddenly getting through the day and then recovering was most of what I focused on. I've had to work pretty hard at allowing myself to keep those priorities, dreams, and desires.
Zt: So this is funny. I actually remember seeing your instagram post featuring that lovely Campari bottle. I'm a big fan and once I saw it I immediately too went out and bought a bottle for myself too. Campari is so Red. Very invigorating in addition. .
It's kind of like a lot of your Art projects in terms of Color. What did you internalize at this point during full time artistry?
Campari's my absolute fave. (A negroni will always be my first love though I'll tend towards a martini now.) And yes, so red, and I love that it takes a discerning palate or an acquired taste to fully appreciate.
I was already working on the red poem when the pandemic hit. I was recently trying to figure out when red as a color started showing up in my work and I think it was October 2019 that I started collecting red photos and January 2020 that I first started writing and ideating about it. (Although by that point I had already seen it come through my images—that's usually how things work for me.) And the pandemic didn't necessarily change the trajectory of that work, it just gave me a lot more time to think. At the time I was single and living alone, so I was focused a lot more on connection, touch, and desire.
I think the shift in my work has been so subtle that I'm having a hard time putting it to words. I'm not making different work now or even working differently, but the themes that I'm interested in are changing, just a bit. I'm feeling a little softer. More interested in the interplay between language, color, and photography. Some of that has to do with how COVID has changed my daily life, some of it has to do with falling in love and preparing to leave Portland, some of it is just time marching forwards, the natural progression of the studio, even with all of the turmoil.
Zt: Red is a significant color and it no doubt has implications and meanings in real life that we attribute it to. It's a very lush color and if you get really into that lushness, like you do in your work, attesting to the colorspace is one that interests me too. You speak of touch, connection and desire..... red signals sometimes desire. Red is blood. Red is also dangerous. Red is love. There are so many intersections here! Where does the red poem come from?