Bruk Dunbar, Brain Coral

Walking into Bruk Dunbar’s West-Berkeley studio is an like walking into a waterfall of rainbows; the colors, textures and media all combine in a beautiful and slightly dizzying array that verifies the prolific and varied nature of a great local artist.

Interview with Obi Kaufmann
You mentioned your heart-brain motif as a Sugary-Saccarine Pollution, what did you mean by that?
Bruk: I had this idea a couple years ago to turn ugly on its head and invite people to look at difficult subjects through a nicer, more colorful lens. I always thought it was interesting how the sunsets in Los Angeles often were so vibrant due to the air pollution. I wanted to tweak the look of the “pollution” to be more involved and intricate, resembling brain coral with the gesture of latching on and proliferating as coral does.

I saw your show at Ore a year or so again and I see some similar ideas, namely, things swallowing houses and such.How did these ideas come about?
Bruk: I have been drawing out these ideas for at least five or six years but they hadn’t made their way into my sculptures until 2005 when I started using architecture as a metaphor for different emotional states. Also, houses came to stand as allegories for me around that time and I poured as many different concepts as I could into the image of the house. In 2005, I had my BFA exhibition at California College of Arts and Crafts (yes it was still with the Crafts then) in which I used many types of architecture to speak about social issues such as farming, gentrification, and privilege. After graduating and acquiring my own studio, I began to use the image of the house in more playful ways while still referencing similar social issues. As time goes on, the concepts seem to be getting heavier and darker, but on the surface appearing more sweet and sugary.
Would it be at all fair to call you an ecological artist?
Bruk: That would be great although I would make it a hybrid, like novelists can be science fiction writers. I would be EcoFi. But labels don’t really stick to me. Probably because of all the clay dust.

I am really happy to invite you to participate in THE LIVING CITY 2 show this august at Manifesto. What can we expect?
Bruk: Oh man, I have so many ideas running around right now I can only hope that there is enough clay in my studio, and as you saw I have trash cans FULL of the stuff. I have really been wanting to talk about gentrification a lot more, especially since it is so prevalent and fast-paced here in Oakland. I have been living in the Temescal district for the past four years (near to Manifesto) and have seen my own neighborhood go from being multi-generational, multi-racial family households to white couples moving over from the city to start a family. But back to the question, I really want to do an installation in the space with some houses I’ve been making but really try to capture the feeling of gentrification and displacement. I’m so excited.

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