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Art for everyone

Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett are
improving the world – one sculpture at a time

Candid photos of the two Calgarian artists. (Brown & Garrett)

By Brittany Burridge

WHEN I FIRST SAW”Carbon Copy” in Oliver Square, I knew I wanted to write about the sculpture. Who built it and why? How does the public feel about this upturned car?

In the last issue of The Magpie, I wrote an article where I talked to a couple of MacEwan fine art students to get their assessments of the work. Unfortunately, the artists, who are from Calgary, were unavailable for comment – until after publication.

Now, to balance the narrative, we’re presenting the second half of the story from the artists’ perspective. Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett discuss their background, their art and their advice for budding artists.

Q: What made you two want to be artists?

Garrett: I got an apprenticeship as a machinist and got into the arts through that domain. We started making art in an art collective in the suburbs of northwest Calgary called the Arbour Lake Sghool [sic]. That was one of those moments, living there, realizing what can be art and how wide that definition can be.

Brown: As soon as I found out there was art school, I had to go. For me, it has been a little bit more of a straight shot. Our collaboration together straddles a couple of different disciplines.

Q: How did you meet and start this journey together?

Brown: We met at the Arbour Lake Sghool. They built two-story cardboard mountains in the backyard and burned them down for a music video; the front lawn was a truckload of sand, there was a gallery in the living room, and they would show different artists. They always had bands playing.

Garrett: Collaboratively, we started working on films together. When Caitlind was finishing her undergrad, she was working on films and I have a background in music, so I was making a lot of scores for her. I think we feel like with any good collaboration, what you are together is greater than the sum of your parts.

Q: “CLOUD,” which was named your first “truly public work,” was a huge hit. You spent years dedicated to the project meant to last one night. How did you decide where to go next?

CLOUD, the work that launched Brown and Garrett’s careers. (Brown & Garrett)

Brown: The sculpture was developed in 2012, and then it went viral on the Internet. We started getting emails from different galleries and festivals in Europe. The first place we went was Moscow. It was the first time we had done anything with a major gallery, and it was the first time we had left the country to make art.

Garrett: We spent like six months, a year, building the piece originally. That piece still tours to this day. It feels like we’ve distanced ourselves from it. Not to get away, but we’ve moved into many other directions. It was pretty tough to make that next piece.

Q: You two do some pretty large-scale projects that seem to take a lot of engineering. What kind of teams do you need to make your visions happen?

Garrett: Many infrastructures go behind public art. I think that’s why the budgets are a lot bigger, because many professionals need hiring. At the very least, there’s an engineer. If we have welding connections, we’ll work with a professional welder because of ticketing and liability.

Brown: There’s usually a landscaper working on the site and a project team. You have a public art co-ordinator working with you and a project manager running the entire site. The next step is to build the artwork. Often we’re working with fabricators at some point in the process.

Garrett: We don’t always work through a fabricator; we like to keep our hands in the work whenever we can.

Q: There are many projects you have done surrounding the idea of light art, (visual art wherein light is the main form of expression). “Carbon Copy” differs from your other works. Can you tell me about your decision to take a step away from what appears to be your overall theme?

Garrett: With “CLOUD”, we dove headfirst into the world of light art. It’s a material we’re fascinated with. “Carbon Copy” is viewed by a lot of people in the daytime. There are some light components to the work, but they are not super central. We did include a light element to give a bit of a different esthetic at night. Sometimes it ends up being spectacular, sensational and entertainment, which is fine, but we still like to pursue this artistic concept within our work.

Q: A MacEwan student commented that the sculpture appears pessimistic, as the car is nose down, appearing to crash down to earth. What was your thought process behind the placement of the work?

Brown: We were aiming for something that was a combination of a bit violent but also rattled your understanding of every day. This idea of something that is around us all the time, something that you’re trained not to see any more. We were thinking about every day and literally turning it on its head to some extent.

Garrett: We thought a lot about the space that the project would be in. It didn’t make sense to put something conventionally beautiful there to try and catch the eye. The car makes sense because we wanted to establish a dialogue between the artwork and surroundings.

Brown: I would call it more satirical than pessimistic.

Q: Moving on to your more recent art, are you working on anything right now?

Brown: We’re working on our “Hibernation Project.” It’s a 12-week, art-making marathon. For every single week there’s a different theme. This year, some of the weeks are hosted on the radio and hosted in virtual space. Next week, we’re designing an online gallery, and each artist gets a room. Last week was a car show, and we drove to a bunch of strip malls. Part of the idea is to get people through the winter, just little projects that take maybe a day, try not to spend any money.

Q: You have won some impressive awards, including the Urban Design honour for public artworks in Calgary and the People’s Choice for “Carbon Copy.” Is there any advice that you could offer for upcoming artists and creators?

Brown: Show up. If you’re part of the community, you automatically have a better shot. The other thing is to apply for stuff. A lot of times, people get discouraged before they’ve even tried.

Garrett: Reach out to people who have different skill-sets than you, and you might find a good fit. In any domain, try to reach out to someone who’s doing something you’re interested in.

Brown: Awards don’t mean anything. We started applying for a couple awards so we would be taken more seriously. We just wanted a couple of tangible things. Often people fake it till they make it.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Brown: We’re excited to be working in Edmonton again [in West Jasper Place]. We weren’t sure how [“Carbon Copy”] would be received when we first installed the work. It was better than the best case we could have imagined. Leaving artwork in someone else’s city is a pretty huge privilege, to be able to make work for other people. It’s always your hope that it will in some way positively impact their world.

Did you think cars were only for trips to the grocery store? Brown and Garrett used “marbles, ink, velocity, and inertia to create generative drawings
in the trunk of [their] van.” (Brown & Garrett) 

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