SGB Featured Artist – September and October 2016 – Brian Somerville
Brian Somerville received his BFA from the University of Evansville and a MFA from Florida Atlantic University. His work typically consists of large-scale ceramic sculptures combined with alternative materials. The series exhibited at Southern Grist Brewing Company is an experiment in creating elaborate “frames” for small paintings. Currently, Brian has a studio in Burns, TN and works for Noble Building Group in Nashville, TN.
Brian and I met through being selected by the Arts at the Airport organization as two of five artists commissioned to create large scale Bonnaroo themed sculptures, which are presently hanging in skylights until February of 2017. As most people do, I have a number of artists that I hold in high regard. Brian is at the top of that list. His ability to fabricate large scale pieces in such a unique and intriguing way has always been fascinating to me. Honestly, I was a bit nervous my first time meeting him. Upon doing so, I quickly realized that he may be one of the most friendly and humble artist around.
How did Somerville find himself as an artist?
“When I was in high school, a (non art) teacher pulled me aside after class and said, ‘You know you are really wasting your time with art.’ Instead of discouraging me, I think that might have been the moment I started thinking about art as a serious career. I got a BFA from University of Evansville and an MFA from Florida Atlantic University. After school I did a few residencies in Florida at the Armory Art Center then moved back to Indiana to run a small clay studio called the Mary Anderson Center. I ended up working as an artist for Weber Group Inc, a company that specialized in themed construction for zoos and amusement parks. With the skills I learned there and some help from an old friend, I landed a job as artist-in-residence at a new start-up called OZ Arts in Nashville. I still do some work at OZ, but recently resigned my full-time position to concentrate on my own work and begin working as a sculptor for Nashville’s Noble Building Group.”
What does being an artist mean to Brian, and what is his ultimate goal when it comes to his work?
“I used to think that being an artist was just something I did, but wasn’t who I was. I always assumed that if art didn’t ‘work out,’ I would just do something else. Recently I’ve realized it’s more important to me than I thought. To me, being an artist is having the ability to see the world in different ways and having the skills and talent to create something that shares that perspective. Art has to be a passion for me to stay in it, because as a career it can get a little crazy.”
“The goals for my work have changed over the years. Building a life that supports my family while allowing me to create new work and share it with others is my current goal. My favorite part has always been doing the work in the studio. The rest is either an added bonus or tolerated noise.”
What are two art related achievements that Somerville is the proudest of?
“I currently have a Bonnaroo themed skylight sculpture up at Nashville’s International Airport. Having a large piece in such a high profile location is amazing. The professionalism of the Arts at the Airport organization has made the entire experience really great.
My proudest achievement in art is the collaboration I did earlier this year with my 6 year old son. Froggy’s House is a 10’ x 10’ tree house that stands 16’ tall. Will developed the storyline, we both designed the sculpture and I did most of the fabrication. It was a great experience to bring my son into the process and it was a good lesson for me to keep thinking outside the box and not take everything so seriously when making my own work. We completed the installation for Tony Youngblood’s Modular Art Pod Show at OZ Arts, but its permanent home is in our backyard next to a pirate ship we’ve been working on.”
What is the best advice he has for young artist?
“I always hesitate to give advice to young artists because I feel like I’m still learning how to play the game myself. All I can say is young creatives should consider what kind of artist they want to be and compare that to what kind of lifestyle they want to live. Typically, a path you can exist in is somewhere in the middle. There are thousands of ways to make a living as an artist. You just have to find the right one and it’s never too late to change direction.
I do believe that surviving as an artist in our culture is extremely challenging for many different reasons. However, if you can survive the lows times, the high times are a wild ride.”
His closing remarks are:
“I really want to give a shout out to Jake Elliott of What. Creative Group and Grist Brewing Company for the opportunity to share new work. A wise friend tells me on a weekly basis that, “A high tide raises all ships.” Artists helping artists is the best way for us all to succeed.
My survival as an artist is only possible because of the support of my family, friends, colleagues, patrons and employer. I currently work for Noble Building Group, a local company that specializes in luxury construction and is made up of an incredible team of artists and construction professionals. Stay tuned for some big projects we have planned.
You can experience more of my work and process through some upcoming events. I have a solo show at Appalachian Center for Craft this year, October 7th – November 11th with a hands-on workshop in July of 2017. I’ll do a short presentation and have some work on display at Vanderbilt’s Ceramics Department on October 11th. I also have a solo show at Belmont University in March of 2017.”
SGB Featured Art Descriptions:
Title: Traded My Roots For A Real Nice Smile
Description: the tree
Size: ~ 4’ x 3 ½’
Method: marker and paint on wood
Meaning: Over the past three years I’ve been doing an honest evaluation of my own work. Traded My Roots For A Real Nice Smile is inspired by my decision to stop listening to the voices of my past and start listening to the voices in my head. The small painting is an original sketch for Froggy’s House. A collaboration with my 6 year old son, Froggy’s House was completed for Tony Youngblood’s Modular Art Pod Show earlier this year at OZ Arts.
Title: Don’t Be Surprised We’ve Seen This Before
Description: skull and tower
Size: ~4’x 3 ½’
Method: marker and paint on wood
Meaning: My work has always had a dark side to it. Skulls and bones are reoccurring elements in my work and this piece is a continuation of that. The winged skull in the painting is a concept I’ve been developing for years as a possible large-scale sculptural arch.
Title: Dog Grew Wings
Description: small piece with wings
Size: ~2’x 3 ½’
Method: marker and paint on wood
Meaning: When given the opportunity, I love doing workshops and live demonstrations of my sculpture work. I typically sculpt a dog using 150 – 200lbs of clay. In the process of building the beast, a variety of sticks, rods and pipes stick out in various places to support the wet clay. The painting is a depiction of one of these in-progress sculptures. The winged frame represents my plans to push that old work into something new and different with future work.
Want to keep up with Brian?
Website: Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.
Facebook (again): www.facebook.com/claybeast