Creative Peaks: Pattern Prey

By on March 21, 2018

Teton Artlab artist-in-residence protests human-caused catastrophe

Miranda Brandon embeds environmental messages and social critiques into her fabric work.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Miranda Brandon saw the guy observing her shirt. He complimented her before he really processed the design—the spilled oil, the men cleaning it up and the duck coated in it.

Brandon, Teton Artlab’s artist-in-residence for March, uses fabric to create art with a message. She employs bright colors and a whimsical design to make the work seem approachable, playful and even childish.

“But the content is quite serious,” Brandon said. “The hope is, I draw people in, but when you get a little closer, you are like, ‘Oh, wait a moment.’”

The fabric work is the latest evolution of Brandon’s art.

The Minneapolis-based artist started as a photographer. In high school in Oklahoma, Brandon stumbled across an old Pentax K1000 that belonged to her older sister. She took an after-school photography class and stuck with it even when the other kids lost interest and she became the only student in class. Sometimes the teacher would just leave her a note with a photo assignment and Brandon would happily work alone.

Even then she wasn’t interested in conventional portraiture. She doesn’t know what drove her to do it, but she was trying to find small ways to manipulate the environment or juxtapose an object in an interesting space. “I was already exploring a crude version of constructed imagery,” she said.

Brandon earned a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and later completed an MFA at the University of Minnesota. During graduate school, a friend told her about seabirds that were dying after ingesting plastic in the ocean. “That was just so unsettling to me—the mental image it conjured and knowing we’re the reason there’s that garbage in the ocean.”

The notion compelled Brandon to volunteer at a wildlife rehab center where she helped in the avian nursery working with birds that sustained injuries from flying into windows. Her volunteer work inspired the 2013 “Impact” series that she created in graduate school. In the series, she photographs dead birds on glass, the way they would look when hitting a window, but enlarges the prints to show the impact. (Brandon worked with Audubon Minnesota and turned over birds collected for the project to the Bell Museum of Natural History; it is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 for most people to possess birds, feather or nests.)

For a few years, her work was very “bird-centric,” but eventually Brandon began thinking about other types of animals, interconnectivity and ecosystems. She created the DIY Animal Populator, where she made cutouts of animals that she placed and then photographed and encouraged others to participate.

But eventually she grew bored with photography. “I wanted to make something that interrupts a space in a way that a photograph doesn’t,” she said. “I just got to a point where photography wasn’t serving my ideas well enough.”

About a year ago she shifted mediums during an art fellowship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was the perfect time for her to experiment and find out what she wanted to do next.

She spent months creating dead-end projects. She didn’t worry if an idea failed to turn out as she hoped. “The beautiful thing was that each failure led to me asking the question about why it didn’t work and it led to the next thing,” she said.

Brandon started creating small strange sculptural pieces and thinking about consumerism and patterns. “I started thinking about the home space and how we furnish the spaces and those things that we see on an everyday basis,” she said.

She created a throw pillow with coyotes bounding across the fabric. A closer look shows its surrounded by guns and traps.

Now she wants to do more work on items like bedspreads, scarves and shower curtains. “I like the idea of taking a familiar form, something we are so used to, like a pillow or a T-shirt, but using it to access something different,” Brandon said. PJH

Brandon is using her time in Jackson to work, but also to collect inspiration. She will talk about her work and offer a tour of her studio 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 at the Teton Artlab.

About Kelsey Dayton

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