A few weeks prior to meeting with this artist, I had just completed an extensive project for a high school: putting together an all-inclusive art history binder for the art education students. During my research and compiling, I discovered Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago’s Womanhouse, and was completely enthralled. Womanhouse was a feminist art installation exhibiting a myriad of powerful woman artists - I suggest you scour the internet for a while, as this simple description doesn’t do it justice. But all this is to provide a flavor for the artist Bianca Brandolino who, if I must say so myself, is the human embodiment of this fascinating installation. With a bold mindset and her love for women as a community, she told me something that stuck for a while afterwards; “My work doesn't have to be for the white man down the street; it can be for everyone else.” She is an educated feminist, dedicated to her craft. Bianca accomplished a few degrees in her time at the Peck School of the Arts: a BFA in Design and Visual Communications, a BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis on Drawing and Painting, as well as a Fine Arts Minor in Art History. Her academic background has shaped her into a powerful artist with a lot to say and the language with which to articulate it.
Bianca feels she has always been an artist, yet she describes a moment during her freshman year of university when her perceptions of art and the artistic process changed for her personally. Guerrilla Girls, a group of masked female artists uncovering the myths that any and all “good” art comes from the cisgendered white male of Impressionism, came to her school to give a presentation, and she was completely hooked. After that, she delved deeper into modern and feminist art, developing her own ideas and growing as a female artist. I found this, and especially her academic background, truly fascinating. To be an artist, it’s not exactly necessary to have an education in art, or in anything at all, for that matter. However, her projects are so cerebral, so dense. I wanted to know how her education has influenced her and her work. “It has given me all the knowledge of art history, and new ways of creating,” she says. “I was taught how to be representational, and how to get away from that. Basically, have a bigger arsenal of things I can do now.” Her artistic process involves an intense amount of researching and cataloging of ideas and historical moments, predominately of female artists in the past and how they established their work. A frequent Half Priced Books browser, she collects art history texts in order to establish a groundwork of what has come before her.
In relation to her extensive research, Bianca’s most recent work was a quilt series based in the history of women quilting and how that process worked, and what it meant to the women who practiced it. For her project, Bianca asked some of her closest female friends and relatives to donate their used makeup wipes, smeared with various pinks and blacks and skin tones, where she would then dry them out, stitch them together, and pull them over a wooden frame. It’s an amazing idea, and frankly I’m jealous I’ve never thought of it. Instead of drawing or painting portraits of the important women in her life, she let them paint themselves, as they do every morning putting on their makeup, and she would simply use their art as her vision. She tells me this process of removal is called a “reductive painting process,” and she uses this as a new form of a portrait. She hopes to, in the future, do a full portrait in this style using only her wipes, but that is still to come.
As mentioned previously, Bianca enjoys some good old fashion art research in order to start a project, but I wanted to know how she stopped that process and began crafting her ideas in a more defined way. She laughed a bit at this and responded simply, “I do well with timelines.” She creates “due dates” of a less permanent degree for herself in order to stop researching and put pen to paper, otherwise she claims she could ride the research train endlessly. But that doesn’t represent the full story of her artistic process; “I produce the most work when I’m emotional, actually. I have anxiety and depression and I like to channel that into my work.” The struggle of wanting to produce so much, and not actually being able to do so is something I find remarkable about her as an artist. She keeps going, through the good and bad days, and that is definitely inspiring.
Recently, Bianca moved into a studio space with a few of her fellow Milwaukee artists, and is excited to work in an environment where constructive criticism is at her fingertips. She thrives off working with peers, and hopes to collaborate with other artists in the future. Her dream project, or more accurately one of her dream projects, is to create her own Womanhouse by purchasing a space and having that as her piece, being able to have the freedom to do whatever she wants with it.
Lastly, Bianca brings me to a fond memory in the depths of production. She was working on a series of portraits of disassembled female bodies in order to see how far she could break up the body and still tell that it was a human. In the process of creating color swatches of various skin tones, she discovered something particularly resonant. “I remember seeing all the colors that were within these women’s skin, and thinking ‘wow, there’s periwinkle in there,’ and that was so amazing. I started trying to make portraits of women, and now they only correlate to that if you see them in process. Otherwise they're just geometric paintings.” Bianca creates new pieces consistently, and has recently launched her website biancabrandolino.com to showcase some of her finest. Personally, I’ll be following this artist for a while, and I have a feeling readers wouldn’t be disappointed to do the same.