INTERVIEW: Bria Corranda
Bria Corranda is utterly emblematic of the breadth of artistic talent bubbling up beneath the surface in America. And it’s not confined to the United States. The world over, young creatives are steeped in art and compelled to make, at once becoming their own boss, a CEO, an a working artist all at the same time.
Jabria Turner (her given name) grew up watching her mom make art, beams of sunlight entering their Southside home as she witnessed her mother’s creativity becoming actualized. Looking back, this experience of being a witness, of seeing another human, one she is forever connected to, following their muse and creating the art she had to, is clearly an instance of possibility & genesis for her. And it’s interesting, because sometimes we need others bring these things into focus. To help us understand these moments for that they really are – instances of people being turned on by the world and being compelled to contribute.
Bria Corranda is a perfect example of someone who has experienced the ‘Experience, Reflect, Make’ pathway we speak about at IPMM; an uncanny process of going from passive observer to maker because of a creative experience, a timeless spark of individual expression and interconnected humanity all at the same time.
We’ve just purchased one dozen prints of Bria Corranda’s art prints for the IPaintMyMind Permanent Print Collection, and we are thrilled to work with her.
Ahead we discuss the ever sticky topic of art school, Chicago’s segregation as it applies to artistic opportunity for young BIPOC creatives, all while stopping to smell a few roses, teasing inspiration, and discussing dinner with Tupac.
EL: Bria, it’s so good to connect. We reached out after finding your work on Instagram and are so excited to be purchasing prints of yours for the IPaintMyMind Permanent Print Collection!
JT: Hey, I’m thankful to be able to connect and work with IPaintMyMind. I’m excited for what’s to come.
EL: Please, tell our readers about who you are and where you’re from …
JT: Well my name is JaBria, but I go by Bria. Bria Corranda professionally and I’m an illustrator and Digital Artist that sometimes works traditionally. I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago.
EL: I love that in the About section of your website that you mention at the very beginning learning from watching your mom draw. Paint that picture for us, would you?
JT: Oh, that picture would look like my mom at the art table drawing and me at the kitchen table doodling cartoons. I think seeing my mom focus on something she was creating, it was just natural for me to gravitate towards the same thing. Even now, she and I still find ourselves sometimes sitting at the table and I’m working digitally and she’s working traditionally.
EL: That’s really beautiful. You’re lucky! Ya know, as an organization HQ’d in Chicago, our collection represents many local artists, so we really love connecting with young Chicago-based artists like yourself. How do you feel the city has influenced your work?
JT: To be honest, I think most of the work that I have now doesn’t have any Chicago influence in them. I think from this point on, now that I have a feeling of knowing where I want to take my art, and the stories I want to tell, Chicago is definitely a part of that story, and that experience.
EL: How would you define the main influences on your current work? Or for example, the pieces we’re purchasing for the IPaintMyMind Permanent Print Collection?
JT: I feel the main influence of my current work is Black culture itself. I’ve drawn rappers like Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, singers like Sade, and Marvin Gaye because I know if I felt inspired by this, someone else has too. Drawing black women and men with afros or locs because I know that the beauty of our hair is important. So I think my current work just represents things of Black culture, that I felt influenced by; and wanted to give my own interpretation to.
EL: One thing we’ve really noticed as a result of our curation and outreach over the years, is that Chicago’s art scene is just as segregated as the rest of the city. Has that been your experience? Or what have you noticed about barriers to entry in the local art scene?
JT: My mother actually talked to me about this, and she was basically saying, when she was coming up as an artist, black artists couldn’t get into the “white” art shows. Black artists were seen as not being good enough. One of the major things that allowed them to be seen was the African Festival of the Arts. I can kind of attest to that, you know applying for big art shows or art galleries that weren’t exactly in my neighborhood and being told “it’s just not what we’re looking for”. Then my first art show, the first time I felt like my art was seen, was the Black Creativity show with the Museum of Science and Industry. So there is a definite struggle, and that’s why I am thankful for art shows, fairs, galleries, that make sure black artistry is seen.
EL: Absolutely. You studied animation at Columbia beginning in 2014, how did that shape your creative approach?
JT: Honestly, I don’t think it shaped my creative approach at all; I didn’t like studying animation at Columbia, I personally felt that professors pushed animation as being more about technicality than creativity. I studied animation three years before I really had to admit to myself animation wasn’t for me. I feel illustration fits more of my creative approach because of the wanting to narrate a story through my work. Wanting people to feel as though they could relate to that memory or painting.
EL: Interesting. Do you think the animation process helped you in any other ways, if not specifically technically in a way you apply to the art you make now? It could totally be something you learned NOT to do. I’m always just curious about how learning one creative process yields to learning in another.
JT: I’m glad you asked that because I was thinking of that as well. So, I’m not going to say absolutely nothing came from studying animation because in animation I learned about software and drawing digitally; and that’s a process that I still use. You know, thinking about it, one of the biggest things I did take away from animation is this word “exaggeration”. In animation, you can exaggerate your characters however you want, you could make their actions be whatever you want them to be. So, that’s kind of what I want to apply to my work and how I want to approach it; do it my way, whatever way I think, however way I feel.
EL: What are you working on now? I was just thinking that a series of prominent Black Chicagoans would be an incredible collection of prints. We’d buy them if you made them!
JT: You know what, during this quarantine I’ve come up with so many ideas on what series I want to start; and it just feels like there’s not enough time in the day to execute them.
EL: The fountain runneth over! I can relate.
JT: There are two series ideas that I really want to put my focus toward. The first series is, “Don’t Call Me Beautiful”, which is a series of self portraits, basically disassociating myself from beauty and beauty standards.
JT: The second series is actually similar to your idea, except instead of Black Chicagoans, it’s prominent Black women, who have inspired me over these last two years. For example, Nina Simone and Toni Morrison. But, if I were to start a series of prominent Black Chicagoans, the first person would definitely be Mavis Staples.
EL: Well hell, we’re down to buy that series too! How has Covid-19 affected you and your family? Has it changed the way you think about your art?
JT: Covid-19 has definitely hit close to home, knowing a family member who had it and fought it, to knowing a close family friend, who passed away from it. So we’re trying our best to social distance and still continue to do just essential things.
EL: I’m so sorry to hear that. Condolences.
JT: I don’t think the pandemic has changed the way I think about my art, in the sense of ideas that I want to draw or paint. But it has changed the way I think about my art on the business side of things. Like marketing, investing in a printer, so I can print from home, and maybe branching out and doing more than just prints.
EL: I like that. Just as, if not more importantly, how does the Black Lives Matter movement resonate with you personally? What are your thoughts, reflections, meditations, or creatively inspiring notions related to the fight for racial justice in America?
JT: There’s a painting of a young black man that I did in the midst of the George Floyd protests, and I named it “Black and Blue 2020”. His facial expression looks tired almost blank, how his hands are gesturing almost as if he was pulling a trigger; I drew a circle behind him as it looks like a target, but it can also represent the sun or life. I think that resonated with me, the movement, and just what’s going on; the feeling of being tired, being angry, being afraid of walking in our neighborhoods because some people who vowed to serve and protect, can very well look at us as targets. I think you just get fed up with asking how long, how many times does this have to happen before change. Being from Chicago and knowing that there hasn’t always been a great light casted upon us, from the segregated city, to police brutality, to gun violence, it’s heartbreaking. But I think the Black Lives Matter movement is creating a voice and strengthening the conversation, and forcing people to see things that they didn’t want to admit were there.
EL: I think you’re right. And even though it’s clearly way too late, the reality is that minds need to be changed to move our culture to a new place. And honestly, that ties in perfectly to the feeling I had when I saw your work. A reflection of pride, and self, and acceptance, and joy.
What drew me to your work is the utter sense of joy & pride, radiating in depictions of blackness. Since imagery is such a vital force for the way cultures manifests and the way we understand ourselves, how do you view your depictions of black people?
JT: When I first decided to be a digital artist and illustrator, which was honestly two years ago, I really didn’t have an idea of what direction I wanted to take my artwork; I drew black people because that was what I knew. Now having some sense of direction, how I view my depictions of black people from past work and upcoming, is strong, resilient, vulnerable, creative, conflicted, just everyday life in every shade of blackness. Specifically with drawings of mine depicting black women because it’s too often that black girls, black women go unheard and unseen.
EL: Certainly. What artists inspired you growing up and who are you being inspired by currently?
JT: The artist I was familiar with the most growing up was an artist by the name of Annie Lee. I was familiar with her because she was one of my moms favorite artists. My mom had a couple of her prints and figurines around the house. Now, being older and understanding her artwork, she inspires me more today. There are three other artists that inspire me currently, that is Kerry James Marshall, Ernie Barnes and most recently Faith Ringgold. All four of these artists inspire me by how they could each tell their own story through a painting, and just how they created their own vision of the black experience.
EL: Have you seen the massive and epic ‘Die’ by Faith Ringgold at MOMA in NYC? It’s so damn good. I had the pleasure of seeing it in person late in 2019. Amazing.
JT: Wow! No I haven’t seen it in person, I wish I could; I know it’s just breathtaking.
EL: It’s so good. How did your experience of the arts in school shape the formation of your identity as an ‘artist’? How did school support your creative tendencies, or in what ways did you wish it had? Also, can you point to a specific creative experience as a kid that signaled to you that art was your path?
JT: Truthfully, I think it hindered instead of helped. From grade school to high school we didn’t really get that exposure to the arts like going to art museums, or having school art shows, or having artists come speak to us, or even learning about art history. We had the basic art class. So that’s really what I wished I had gotten from school. So when it comes to the formation of my identity as an artist, that’s something I’ve struggled with and still struggle with.
EL: I think many artists who went to art school would agree. It’s mostly due to a ‘think inside the box’ approach to art, which frankly, has never made any sense to me. Sorry, go on!
JT: Even though I drew a lot as a kid and I was always creative, at that time I didn’t really look at being an artist as something I wanted to be. Every realization that I had of me being an artist, happened within these last two years. The specific realization that I had was two years ago, I felt like I wasn’t progressing in my art work, and I found a story I wrote when I was like twelve. It was about a girl winning an art competition and at that moment I felt probably for the first time like I belonged in the art world.
EL: Wow, that’s cool. Well I’m so glad you stuck with it. As you say, there’s so much great artwork you could make. On a lighter, more daily note, what’s your favorite breakfast? Lol…
JT: I’m not really a breakfast person, like I honestly have to be in the mood for cooking breakfast. But my go-to breakfast meal is just simple grits, toast, and turkey sausage. Maybe sometimes an omelet, if I’m feeling fancy.
EL: Me too, I drink coffee all morning. If you could have dinner with one artist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
JT: When asked this question, two people come to mind. The first person is Queen Latifah, because she’s a person I admired in my childhood. From her music, to her being an actress, and having her own production, it was just her being able to dabble in anything; and I felt that’s kind of how I was. The second person is Tupac, for one him being a fellow Gemini, and I just loved that he was a rapper but also a poet. I just feel like he was a real genius. I also credit his poem “Can You See The Pride In The Panther?” to how I got in college.
EL: Thanks for sharing with us, Bria. And again, we’re so excited to collect your prints, add them to our collection, and share them with the world.
JT: It was a pleasure! Thank you for giving me the opportunity! I’m excited to share it with the world.
If you’re a working artist who is interested in connecting with us, and becoming a part of our permanent collection, please submit your art via our submission page. We love making new friends!
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