The Crown seeks to give exposure to local and international artists through The Crown Gallery, and hosts new artists every four months. The Crown Gallery is currently accepting submissions for the Spring of 2024 and is seeking artists who approach issues related to environmental sustainability, intersectionality, the City of Oakland, and of course, coffee. Contact us here with the subject “Call for Artists” if you want to apply!
As curator and Creative Director here at The Crown, I do a series of interviews with our artists so that everyone can hear what inspires them. The coffee industry is comprised of people with multifarious passions, and during my time as a coffee professional I have encountered people steeped in disciplines as disparate as music composition and astrophysics. It only seems fair to give time to one group I have met most frequently in the coffee industry: visual artists. So join us for an exploration of the natural world, Bay Area culture, and our favorite beverage with the resident artists at The Crown Gallery.
Join us for The Crown’s latest exhibition, an ambitious showing of encaustic work by Alexis M. Brayton. Using wax and mixed media, Brayton develops a layered, nuanced body of work in Surfacing. Delve into watery miasmas, imagined landscapes, and composite cataracts. Brayton’s work explores the obscured and transparent, fixed and malleable, hard surfaces and the briny deep.
Alexis’ work will be on display from January 9th to May 1st, 2024.
Please register to attend the artists’ reception – February 2nd, 2024 – https://events.royalcoffee.com/EventFirstFridayArtReception
Alexis M. Brayton
Evan Gilman: When did you start making art? Was there a first medium you fell in love with?
Alexis Brayton: Weren’t we all artists as children? I don’t remember a beginning, I was always creating. I recorded weird pirate radio shows on cassette tapes, invented a religion with a lot of rituals that involved rocks. I also created a whole town in my room which had its own currency, library and a pretty extensive municipal bureaucracy. I was in a theater group that was very important to me as a kid.
I recall, as a teenager, my mother telling me I should go to art school. My response at the time was, “do you really think I’m that self absorbed?” I had this sense that being an artist was self indulgent. I don’t know where that came from, certainly not my parents. The first visual art medium I got really into as an adult was bookmaking.
EG: Getting into the flow of making art is a very specific feeling. Can you describe the feeling you get when you have creative inspiration?
AB: Restless but blessed? When I’m in the zone with painting I feel as though I am living fully and truthfully, even when it is not going well.
EG: What’s your personal coffee history? Does coffee figure into your everyday life?
AB: I grew up in Rhode Island, a small but mighty state. Among RI’s many points of pride is the invention of coffee milk. It’s essentially a sweet distilled coffee syrup that you mix with milk. I grew up drinking it and I think my mom still has at least a glass every day. Perhaps for this reason I have an affinity for very milky coffee-adjacent things such as coffee ice cream or kopiko candy from Indonesia. Every morning I drink (feeling a little sheepish here) instant coffee with a lot of milk. But it’s really good instant coffee from Papua New Guinea! I LOVE my morning coffee even if it’s sort of…light weight. Honestly, I’d be lost without it.
EG: You speak a little about language in your artists’ statement. Are there any artists whose language stands out to you, and why?
AB: I have always loved Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Maybe because his “words” are natural and limited to what is found, but his voice is still somehow so clear and distinct. To say something beautiful using simple, unfussy language, that is masterful.
EG: Speaking of language: I’d hazard that music is a language as well. What sort of music would you set to the work you’re showing?
AB: Ooh, good question! Sadly, I don’t know the answer. Something eerie and just a bit too far away to hear clearly. Like that beautiful song you heard in your dream but can’t remember in the morning.
EG: What is the concealed, hidden underbelly of the Bay Area to you?
AB: One of the reasons I love Tanja Baker’s trainyard photos is because they are a view into an Oakland underbelly– rough but also tender and largely unseen. I’m an anxious person and I’ve always been comforted by thoughts of a world where my petty problems, even all human problems, are unimportant. I love imagining the earth reclaiming human-made spaces after we are gone. And in terms of getting a glimpse of what that might look like while we are still here, places like abandoned trainyards really get me going.
When I talk about what is concealed, I’m also talking about the emotional undercurrents that you can sense but never fully know. Those are everywhere, or at least everywhere humans are, and they are as varied as we are. Of course, the Bay Area has some deep shared emotional undercurrents that most of us probably experience every day– the conversation between privilege and poverty, for example.
EG: What was the best part about showing at The Crown? (this can be for after the show goes up if you like!)
AB: It’s a very beautiful space. And it was a fun challenge to think about creating a show that would work both close up and far away (when the wall is open). I thought a lot about the shape of pieces together and that was interesting, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to show at The Crown.
EG: What draws you to aerial photos or images?
AB: I’m not sure, but it’s probably something about getting that far-away perspective (again, I find it calming to feel small, irrelevant, temporary). Also they are just objectively beautiful so much of the time, and encaustic lends itself nicely to painting aerial views. It’s so damn fun to carve out rivers and canyons with tools and create water currents with heat.
EG: Anything you’d like to add or promote? Do you have any current projects you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?
AB: I’m excited to experiment more with painting on glass and would like to make some functional sculpture/furniture. I’m exploring how to do some before/after aerial work that shows human impact on different landscapes. I’m also really into sidewalk cracks!