By Robyn Graygor
Photos by Tyler Thompson
Ceramic Uterus sculpture painted with oil paint
Uteri, neurons, and snakes, oh my!
Anna Brand stood slicing a sappy cantaloupe into cubes, proudly sporting a hand-sculpted metal bikini, while awaiting her guests by the Forum Art Space entrance. Her show, “Gasm,” would mark her fourth exhibition after months of tireless work.
“I’m also wearing a metal bikini; I don’t know if I should just fully wear it...I should just fully wear it for the show,” said Brand with a laugh at her Oct. 7 show. “It’s so exciting to get your body and your being into the show because it’s another way of being super tactile. You see the art and the art is activated.”
Brand posing in her metal bikini surrounded by her pieces (Photo via Anna Brand)
Brand, a senior sculpture major, has developed a system that guarantees that a constant flow of art will always be in the works by setting a goal of having a show every semester. She’s been achieving this objective since her junior year.
“It’s not a senior project, but I try to have a show every semester,” said Brand. “It’s a good way to push yourself I find when you have a due date.”
This show in particular explores gender fluidity, sensuality, and a human connection to nature all tied together with striking bright colors and a wide range of mediums. Metal, ceramic, found materials, paint, and performance are all vehicles she utilizes.
Photo of performance video and handmade circular metal structure
Sexuality inspires most of her sensual pieces and plays an integral role in the physical creation of each artwork as well.
“A big part of it was exploring my sexuality and liberating sexual energy,” said Brand.
Her own journey of discovering and embracing queerness within herself motivated a lot of her metal and uteri sculptures, which have become one of the most prevalent elements in her shows.
“[From} queer sex to falling in love with a female, [I got] access to myself; allowing myself to see beauty in other women gave me a deeper appreciation for beauty within myself,” said Brand. “That inspired a lot of the metal pieces, like the bronze sculpture, the ceramic uterus sculpture, just working with that form.”
Brand’s metal sculpture of uterus/snake head and a glass dildo that a friend made
Hannah Klein, a junior bachelor of science in visual arts (BSVA) sculpture student, was impressed by the sheer skill Brand has when working with metal.
“You see that kind of craftmanship and creativity in metalwork at this level hardly ever, so I just think it’s impressive how well she executes those things,” said Klein.
Brand feels that metal work not only provides a medium to create artworks in, but also creates a process which forces a connection between artist and creation.
“I feel like metal changed the way I see myself because it’s a very physical empowering experience especially being a woman in a metal shop,” said Brand. “I feel like it lit a fire inside of me. Maybe that sounds cheesy but in a lot of ways it really pushed me to become some other form.”
She’s also fascinated by the duality of working with metal since it is molded as a soft substance but hardens with such a sharp edge. This relates to other explorations of duality, such as her interest in a snake's form.
Metal Sculpture of two uteri stacked on top of each other
“I’ve been playing with this idea of the snake being this gender fluid creature because it’s both phallic and yonic,” said Brand. “If you look at the mouth of a snake when it opens its mouth it's like a fucking yoni, but then it’s body is very phallic and very long.”
Brand applies this idea to some of her sculptures by creating a snake-uterus hybrid. The ovaries serve as the snake’s eyes, and a long snakelike body is attached at the base near the cervix.
Raphael Zollinger, lecturer of sculpture and Brand’s unofficial advisor, has noticed an increasing complexity between Brand’s works throughout his time as her professor.
“The mix of materials and processes to communicate what she wants has become more solidified and more complex,” said Zollinger.
Piece which represents the phallic and yonic snake figure
He has also observed that some of her pieces are becoming interactive and involve the viewers not only visually, but physically.
For instance, Brand’s neuron sculpture is comprised of two tree root balls and a strip of LED lights covered with silicone structures that are coded to send a signal to one another if a viewer sets off a motion trigger from either side.
“This has been something that she’s been thinking about for a while and finally putting it into use, and kind of involving all of her skills in a way,” said Zollinger. “The mold-making, the fabrication, the coding, the electronics.”
Neuron piece which shows two root balls connected by a LED and sillicone strip
Klein was excited to see all Brands pieces together, and the correlations between them after having seen them individually from working right next door.
“It was just really incredible to see all of her work in one place because I’ve seen so much of it segmented and in progress because I have a studio right next to her, but seeing it all together created a cohesive narrative,” said Klein.
Zollinger feels that as Brand continues on in their sculpture career, they are destined for success.
“I think as her work is progressing each new piece is becoming my favorite,” said Zollinger. “I feel really fortunate having gotten to know her and work with her, I’d say she’s like one of those types of students that you come around once every five or 10 years, where you just know they’re going somewhere.”
Oil Painting hung in the show