Do you see what I see?
The paintings of Inga Kimberly Brown
Families are complex. Existing diachronically and synchronically, families combine legacies from the past and hopes for the future within the present moment of any single member. When that individual is an artist, the present moment may well become a painting capturing the chronic flux of a family.
Such are the moments within Inga Kimberly Brown’s paintings. And yet, Brown’s paintings speak beyond the complexity of her family. With a heritage of mixed tri-races and various cultures - oppressed and dominant - Brown’s paintings of her family must address race and culture (unlike the white artist where race is taken for granted and often ignored). It is heritage giving Brown’s paintings a vast richness of imagery.
When Brown says she is, “a Hybrid of cultures and races, and my work embodies that Hybridization,” this hybridization not only applies to content but also process. Not restricted to one medium, such as the exclusive use of oil in painting, Brown uses an array of materials. In the painting, Earth Shaker, Brown incorporates not only oil on canvas, but also spray paint, metal leaf, and crushed eggshells mixed with holy water, mustard seeds and dyed feathers. The painting is homage – perhaps a conversation – with her great grandmother whose use of mustard seeds to relieve pain was passed down to Brown through generations. In Holy Family, Brown uses gold leaf suggestive of the Renaissance portraiture and its influence upon Brown during her years living in Italy.
But Brown is not seeking mere historical conversation with her ancestors. Instead, her conversations become “para-dialogues” connecting her spiritually to family members long gone and where painting becomes her medium or guide to messages from those dead. As Brown states, “Painting allows me the rhythm and time to engage with the portal of the afterlife and remain in present life without fear or exposure.”
It is a portal by which Brown’s paintings ultimately move beyond the politics of family, race, or culture in a voice that is fluid and mysterious; never to be defined within any given conceptual structure imposed upon them.
Essay written by artist, Treacy Ziegler, www.treacyziegler.com
Inga Kimberly Brown