Brandi Twilley

Brandi Twilley (b. 1982, Oklahoma City, OK) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in painting from the School of Art at Yale University and her BFA from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. Recent exhibitions include “The Living Room” at Sargent’s Daughters (New York), “Imaginary Friend” at Lord Ludd (Philadelphia), and “Family Portraits” at Hood Gallery (Brooklyn).

Brandi Twilley will be exhibiting at Sargent’s Daughters
Where the Fire Started
July 12 – August 18, 2017
Sargent’s Daughters
179 E Broadway New York


Looking at your paintings like “Summer Night,” one of the first visual signifiers is their literal darkness. Often your paintings are written about as fantastical, strange, involved with darkness, internal or dim light. Can you discuss the relationship between the literal and conceptual darkness in your paintings? Why are these paintings so “dark”?

Living Room - Night

Living Room-Night, 2015, oil on canvas, 32 x 56 “


About six years ago, I made a version of the Living Room paintings that ultimately didn’t work out, but a strange thing would happen during the making of each of them. As I worked on them, adding coke bottles, Barbies, and plastic bags to the cluttered room, gradually the painting moved from the normal value range into a deeper and deeper darkness. Even if I tried to fight it, I would be immersed in the details on the wrapper of a candy bar and then step back from my painting and realize it had turned so dark I could barely see what I had been working on. Years later when I made my second attempt at this series of paintings, the same thing happened again. I was confused by it and sometimes thought it was a lighting issue in my studio. I worked on failed paintings to the point where I reached the limit of darkness and my composition disintegrated into blackness without depth. I eventually decided that the darkness that seemed to be so insistent must be important and, rather than fight it, I should try my best to work with it. I was making these paintings through memory and free association, building the painting without plans. I accepted that these were paintings that are meant to be looked into, not to be looked at. They can’t be taken in at a glance. My eyes have to adjust to them before I can really see them. The difficulty in seeing them mirrors the difficulty of making them, the slowness of remembering what the space looked and felt like, and what was in it.

Living Room - Day

Living Room – Day, 2015, oil on canvas, 32 x 56″

Even though I accepted the darkness I still tried to understand why it was happening. The room I was remembering had little light in it. The memory itself is faded. I also think that making a painting filled with many things is overwhelming. Everything in the painting fights for attention. I wanted all of the phone books, trash, plates of food, clothes, books, Nintendo games, and 7-Up cans to be there, but also not to be there. They can be in the painting, but also just be a part of the dark masses. The paintings are of a chaotic space, but as a painter I like control. I like walking the viewer’s eye through the painting, guiding that route carefully. The light, when it does appear, is very specific and happens in ways that I really remember, like the light resting on the edge of a bed rail or filtering in through the top of a boarded window that lit up the dust in the air as it streamed in. All of the darkness, by contrast, is non-specific. It is murkiness, it is non-distinct colors, mud, like a landfill in which objects lose their colors and gain new ones. It is also like the colors that occur in analog photography that tend toward dark mixes of Magenta, Viridian, Sienna, Umber, and Ultramarine Blue that sit in the photo paper in a way that shifted one way looks green and another way looks violet. This chemical mixture of darkness beneath the gloss on a family photo, I associate with the time period I have been trying to remember. A little of those colors glazed into the darkness adds a bit of photographic plausibility to the constructed memory for me.

Summer Night

Summer Night, 2016, oil on canvas, 48 x 62″

The darkness in the paintings also contains fear, loss, and sadness. I accept this too. I accept that this subject hasn’t generated paintings that are bright like a Matisse. The subject matter is heavy and I have spent a long time revisiting this house. When I move on, my paintings will likely return to normal brightness.  Until then I will be making paintings that I struggle to see and to keep from getting too dark, but are just right.

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