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Brent Godfrey: A man of different strokes

Local gay painter talks about what makes a good art exhibit and how his upcoming show Connections: Painting Life hopefylly fits that mold.

Describe your medium, why you chose it and how does it influence you, or make you who you are?

I use the painting process to ponder life and communicate ideas. Through paint I stretch beyond words, layering emotions and suggesting ideas through my marks and application techniques.

Painting is how I have spent the majority of my time for many years now, so it has become an integral part of how I think and connect with the world. It has heightened my sense of awareness. I suppose I have always seen myself as an outsider. Devoting most of my time and energies to creative processes probably exaggerates this sense.

For those unlearned in visual art, what about it should inspire them to visit an exhibit? (I know this is a broad, subjective question, I just want the readers who think they don’t understand art to feel comfortable about it.)

A good art exhibit is both life-confirming and challenging. It has taken nearly 30 years of painting to be able to create the works in this show. The paintings incorporate a large, disparate range of techniques to survey moments and perceptions from birth through adulthood. It is not completely exhaustive in its scope, nor does it consistently follow a clear theme. It is a glance here and a pause there, moving somewhat spasmodically like human thought processes.

The exhibit is, at once, impassioned and non sentimental. I am interested in the complexity of relationships; nuances and contradictions, not just simple hugs and kisses.

Give a synopsis of your upcoming exhibit Connections: Painting Life.

These paintings are segments of my story. Through them I ponder experiences, events and societal observations. Referencing family photos, tabloid clippings and historical illustrations I combine varying degrees of abstraction and representation to inform and challenge the viewer. Some of my marks define objects while others layer emotional and cognitive  content.

Some of the ideas have floated for decades waiting for stylistic inspiration and a full quiver of abilities. While the pictures may suggest beginnings or conclusions, they are all part of a continuum, glimpses of moments along the way. Together, they form a temporary whole: chapters in an evolving narrative.

The exhibit incorporates paintings done over the past six years, being shown for the first time. Many of the works are parts of several ongoing collections of varying themes that all come together as part of my life story. They incorporate ruminations on and observations of social issues and the status quo.

I am interested in adding paintings of under-represented themes and populations to the pool of art images including: men with children, broader ranges of affection (i.e. same-sex and older people as opposed to just young, attractive heterosexual) and cultural perspectives that are not included in mainstream media.

Give a brief history of your background and how you came to be an artist. 

I was raised in Roy, Utah (a suburb sandwiched between a military base and farmland) in a traditional, conservative, Mormon Republican family. The oldest of five children and the first of many grandchildren, I was trained to be a caretaker and expected to be an example. In my youth being an example meant being a standard bearer for the family beliefs. As an adult I stand for independent thinking, thoughtful behaviors that challenge social norms, and perpetual evolution.

The arts have always been an important part of my persona. As a child and teen I was involved in music, theater and writing as well as the visual arts. Being a painter is, for me, part of a life in the humanities in its broadest sense.

In college I studied drawing, painting and photography while obtaining degrees in writing and psychology. During graduate school my need to create visual art grew more prominent, leading to a year away from school dedicated to painting. This was followed by post-graduate art studies in Italy and Taos, N.M.

While I have lived most of my life in Utah, I have also lived in New Mexico and Sweden and have traveled broadly. My art is probably more influenced by time spent in museums throughout the world than anything learned in classes.

Connections: Painting Life, on exhibit Sept. 9 through Oct. 10, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Sundays, at A Gallery, 1321 S. 2100 East. Visit agalleryonline.com.

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