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Artist Spotlight: Michaela Pilar Brown

April 24, 2018 GMT

LAKE CITY, S.C. – No doubt the prize money is an enticement to enter Lake City’s ArtFields competition. And if the hopes of a grand prize of $50,000 isn’t enough, there is the hope for prizes of $25,000, $12,500, $1,500 and $1,000.

There also is the hope of expanding an artist’s outreach, to gain new patrons.

“The prize money is attractive. This is also an opportunity to share my work and the conversations I’m trying to have in my work with a broader audience,” said Michaela Pilar Brown, whose mixed media installation art “She’s Almost Ready” has been selected for this year’s competition .

The competition hits an audience whose demographics sit outside of her reach, she added.

“I have enjoyed showing at ArtFields because of the surprise that the show represents,” she said. “There is always a wide swath of the Southeastern arts community, with powerful voices in a deep and broad collection of styles, media and curatorial practices among artists, judges and attendees.”

Drawn to theater and live performance, those elements show up in her installations. Her work, she said, is deeply autobiographical.

“My practice makes use of installation and performance as primary structures for my artmaking, but I use whatever media is most effective for delivering [a work that entails] a question I’m wrestling with,” she said. “My practice includes collage, photography, painting and object making.”

For the current ArtFields’ piece, she said in her artist statement that this year’s “work examines the collecting of heirloom objects as a means of identity construction and the building of personal, familial and community history as counter-narrative to American history, re-centering black female subjectivity.”

Brown originally is from Denver and now lives in Columbia. She has been selected to exhibit and compete in ArtFields three previous times. She said she considers herself a “multidisciplinary artist using photography, installation and performance.”

She studied sculpture and art history at Howard University. Brown’s installations offer collages and photographs that address issues attendant to the black body, she said. She uses nontraditional materials and their juxtaposition to each other, or dissimilar objects to make statements about the body and its relationship to larger cultural themes.

She has participated in solo and group exhibitions in North and South Carolina, New York, Georgia, Washington, DC, California, Germany and Canada, and in the 2016 Satellite Art Fair, Basel Miami. The 2011 Harvey B. Gantt Artist in Residence at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation, she has received a S.C. Arts Commission Artist Venture Grant and was the 2016 Jasper Projects Artists of the Year. She was one of six American artists selected to participate as a resident artist for the 2016 Sedona Summer Colony and a 2016 Artist in Residence, Kunstlerwerkgemeinschaft, Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Born in Bangor, Maine, and raised in Denver, she said she “cut her teeth in the halls of a museum where her mother worked as a security guard and has been immersed in the culture of objects, their making and interpretation ever since.” Brown teaches public and private lessons in painting, drawing, digital photography and sculpture.

“I use my own and my family’s story to tackle larger societal questions about race and gender, equity and what a future world looks like,” she said.

Additionally, because Brown has been selected to exhibit in several previous years of the ArtFields competition, she said she has seen the change that the success of the competition is making in Lake City.

ArtFields does as much for the state of South Carolina as it does for Lake City, she said, adding that the annual event has put the state in the middle of a conversation about contemporary art and art and community.

“It’s been great seeing that community’s ownership,” she said, and she applauds Lake City for becoming a gallery for contemporary art.