Beneath the Surface | An Interview with Briahna Wenke
Her vibrant soul is connected with canvas through energetic, liberating and meaningful strokes. Painting gives Briahna Wenke a freedom that “holds no punches”, and since she opened her own studio at the age of 30, she started to wonder how she survived so long without art at the forefront of her life, only recently starting to peel back some layers of herself to set her potential free.
Bri found her inspiration in traveling to cities filled with art history. She swirled into the late impressionists’ world, where paint is just laying on canvas liberating the inner self, and representing pure impressions. She starts her “art career” thinking that art has the amazing power to change minds and the course of the world.
"It’s a painter’s job to show you what you aren’t seeing, show you what the other senses might be doing."
Through the strokes of the heavy palette knife, she brings her impulses to life. “Once I learned how to paint representationally, I knew there had to be so much more to it than that.” In fact, she is focusing her artworks on the human form. “I’m interested in the layers beyond our physical shape: what we do to each other, what we do to ourselves, and the manifestation that stares back at us in the mirror today. Whether we have the courage to actually hold our own gaze.” Furthering her artistic fascination with humans, she is starting a project with Sam Rueter to transform people into her canvas in a live body installation.
Through her artworks, she wants to truthfully represent both strength and resilience – common human traits. She hopes her pieces could stop just one busy person in their tracks, to access something non-verbal, ancient or, unknown. “Our focus needs to shift if we are to get out of our own way and live a life worth living. Humans are deeply flawed, but also very resilient. We can endure so much, and we all have choices.”
“I see a piece of myself in each of the ‘Human Blueprints’, some aggressive and impulsive in nature, while others appeal to a much softer side”, she says. However, there is one painting that is fully instilled with the essence of the person she aspires to be holding unwavering strength and quiet endurance. “She is 36×60” and I can’t tell if she’s finished or not. There are so many layers of paint slathered on her back, contouring her exaggerated muscles and curves, that the canvas weighs a ton. She carries so much. I know very well that I am completely unfinished in my own journey, I have only started scratching the surface.”
Art in today’s society plays a fundamental role. “In our modern society, immediacy rules. I believe that my generation is seeking something tangible, grasping back at our roots for stability, maybe it’s nostalgia for simpler times, closer to the natural world. Certain cultural aspects of our modern world feel redundant, like we’ve been here before, because we have. I hope we can grasp our roots, and look to our history to remind ourselves what we are capable of.”
"I believe the visual power of art can remind us what we cannot afford to forget: just how human we really are."
Running is the only thing that lets her isolate her mind completely and is what gives her inspiration. “Some of my best ideas have streamed through my brain effortlessly like an inhale during a run.” Giving her physical and mental strength, it leads her to great and fresh ideas for her artworks.
"Hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard."
In the end, Bri taught us that it is never too late to live your dreams and act on your impulses, being bold and free as both an individual and an artist. Painting murals, on canvas and even people, she keeps rocking her colorful life.