Flagstaff artist, Erin Brinkman (1983) brings her observations of the human experience to life with her mixed media and oil paintings. The art of being human and doing it the best we possibly can are concepts at the heart of Brinkman’s focus. From our bodies, homes, relationships with each other and the earth, if it is a human question it shall not go unspoken by the time she has finished her life’s work.
“We only have so much time to live. We do our part on earth, and this is mine.”
Growing up in an expanse of desert just north of Apache Junction, Arizona she learned to appreciate the drama and abundance of life in the hot and arid landscape. She recalls the scorching heat of spring and fall, the rare dusting of snow on the saguaros, and the torrential summer monsoons.
“I used to watch the cottontails from the kitchen window dig a bed in the soil under the lemon tree, and see their heartbeats soften after settling in. That was usually a nice refuge for them; they shared it with the quail. I only saw a bunny be eaten once from there by a red racer [snake].
Another day, a family of three javelinas came to drink from the hose in my grandparents’ back yard. I’d always heard they were aggressive, especially with a baby involved, but they must have wanted the water enough to be tame for a moment.
The monsoons were always my favorite. I have this great memory of the power going out one night, so we went out on the back patio with some candles and watched the rain come down. There was literally a waterfall coming over the edge of the roof. Huge thunder and lightning… it smells so good too… a friend of mine gave me a branch of creosote to hang in my bathroom so that smell is recreated every time I shower. I also liked when it snowed, which was twice- one time there was even enough to have a snowball fight.”
Brinkman studied oil painting from a young age in school and privately in the summers. Her family has continuously encouraged her artistic interests- her older sister bought her first easel, and all households have proudly displayed her work. As a teen she took classes from the local community college as well as the University of Sothern California. She continued her studies by moving to Flagstaff in 2001 to study studio art at Northern Arizona University.
“The town I grew up in (only incorporated in the 1970s) was fairly untouched by history or art. There was absolutely no lack of beauty in the landscape, but there was little evidence of creative expression or appreciation. Right in the center of town there used to be a wonderful old hotel from the vestiges of early western cinema- I think I died a little inside when they tore it down. People like Reagan and Elvis had once stayed there and they had a pool shaped like Arizona. Walking into the lobby was like stepping back in time. Not all we inherit from our culture is worthy of preservation, but I thought that was.
My parents had some DeGrazia and Renoir prints on the walls- between that and the art I was exposed to in private school, I think I had more of an understanding than other children in my town.”
Another life long passion, the French language, has shared her attention from the beginning. This lead her to Southern France where she lived, studied, worked, and traveled for two years.
“It was really a invaluable experience to live in a culture where art and beauty are not luxuries, but simply a part of life. It’s an expectation they don’t even seem to know they have, it’s just there.
Many of the paintings, sculptures, and architecture she had studied from books were now tangible objects just inches before her. This proximity gave a new life and authenticity to the imageries that had previously been mere concepts. What once seemed so far away and abstract was now concrete.
Upon returning to the United States she began to accept work on commission. She eventually took a position as a French teacher at Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, a charter high school, where she taught for five years. She now produces originals on a regular basis while also continuing to do commissioned work.
“In line with my fascination with French culture, my early work was greatly influenced by the post-impressionists, Toulouse-Lautrec in particular. I like the vividness and freedom that his work portrays both in technique and subject matter. Recently I’ve adopted more of the techniques used by the old masters; although I’ve been sometimes forfeiting spontaneity by doing it, I’m really liking the way layering the paint and glazing allows the light to pass through it.”
Brinkman’s style that has evolved from impressionistic toward realism reveals her relationship with the world.
“I love how every piece of art is a reflection of the artists psyche in relationship to their environment (in my humble opinion anyway). I’m fascinated with the origins of Dadaism and Pop Art because of their commentary on nothingness and superficiality. But that’s not where I am- I’m somewhere close to the truth and I’m on a mission to reach it. Not like it’s a lunar body one can land on, but a point to which we can strive to be infinitely closer. It’s what we do as humans- discover.”
To further follow Brinkman’s work and ideas you can find her online at www.brinkmanvisualart.com or through the affiliate B Space Studios, a group of Flagstaff artists and representation.