New York- and Detroit-based artist Uta Brauser is known for her surreal murals of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera throughout Brooklyn. Her work served as inspiration for our International Day of the Girl programming, in which students created their own Frida Kahlo-inspired portraits. Get to know Uta below.
Can you tell us about your art practice and how working with children inspires you?
I have been an artist since I was four. I have come to the realization that art is a driving force, an energy, a vector. When it comes through you, it is unshakeable. I have taught workshops with clay for years, and during projects where kids can paint an object (such as a refrigerator, car, or van), I offer them full freedom to go for it. With clay, we have technical requirements and boundaries. To shape an object with your hands, and see it even fired, is very empowering.
Can you tell us about your pop-up gallery project, Fish with Braids?
Fish with Braids started in 2008 at Jersey Ave in Jersey City, in between a fish store and a hair braiding parlor. The gallery closed in 2013, but I still do pop-up galleries in neighborhoods like SoHo, Meatpacking District, Union Square, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. It’s our right to claim the use of public space, to interact and to do business, within all five boroughs.
If you could choose any artist, past or present, or paint your portrait, who would it be and why?
I have started a “Female Hall of Fame” project to feature women with great achievements in the arts, activism, humanities, literature, and science. When I was getting into Frida Kahlo, I could not stop painting her, and she is incredibly inspiring to me. So far, my list consists of Toni Morrison, Naomi Klein, Angela Davis, Harriet Tubman, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, Queen Sissi of Austria, Hilma af Klint … the list of ladies to portray is so long!
What advice would you give to young artists who wish to pursue an art practice?
My one and only advice is to be 100% honest with yourself. Find your purpose, mission, or means of expression. It takes looking into yourself, reflecting, trying, experimenting, and pursuing.
Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?
It is a favorite thing that I did — I would sit in the sandbox and pat wet sand with my hands, shape the sand … really just enjoying the material. That is what triggered my love for working with clay and sculpture.
Can you share a work or artist that inspires you to make art?
So many things inspire me … artists, music, dance, movement of the body, puppetry, theater, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, Dalí, Henry Moore, Oskar Schlemmer, Butoh, Egon Schiele, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Tamara Lempicka.