Fifth Year Emerging Artists: Eddie Bryson ’20 on art as a gift

The Olaf Messenger is running a multi-week series on the Fifth-Year Emerging Artists (FYEA) at St. Olaf. The program allows artists to create and display artwork, use St. Olaf studio space and remain in community with current students. This week we feature an interview with Eddie Bryson ’20.

On what he’s been working on:

I’m a painter. I mainly do paintings and drawings, mostly with oil or acrylic on large canvases. I usually do abstracts based on music, because I’m also a rapper. So, what I like to do is take an object or a theme for a song and then put it into art. I’d say roughly 90 percent of my pieces also have a matching song ­– some of which are by other artists, some of which I’ve composed myself.

“Loss of Potential Memories”, Eddie Bryson ’20

On what he hopes to accomplish:

In basic terms, I want my art to teach empathy, to be a guide for people thinking about how they feel and the way others might feel. As a result, I really try to make self-reflective work.

So, what I’ll do is try to recreate different moments in time and place myself into those moments, to find the rhythm or flow of those moments. If people relate to the moments, they can therefore relate to me and my own experiences. I also enjoy when people can see when I’ve added certain layers and have those be acknowledged, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. I like to think of my art as a sort of gift exchange. If no one responds or enjoys a gift, then it probably wasn’t a very good gift. It’s the exact same thing with art. It needs to be responded to, to be related to, in order to effectively do its job.

On his decision to pursue the FYEA position:

I’m grateful for the program since it gives me access to the studio and my professors, as well as access to really developed artists and people who have seen my work before and are willing to critique it. It’s also really nice because these individuals are able to give me perspective on the progress I still need to make. I also love putting my work on display, because I love people to see my art — because if no one sees it, then it doesn’t accomplish my goal.

On the effects of COVID-19:

COVID has definitely changed some things. For example, there is the annual art picnic, which fifth years usually play a big role in, but this year it was virtual. We also can’t mentor the younger students as much, which is unfortunate because that was something I really enjoyed doing while playing football here. Additionally, access to the studio is limited since no guests are allowed into the art building. That does make things a little difficult because I can’t show friends or colleagues my art, or even have my work photographed, which makes it hard to get my work out there. Overall, I’d say COVID has made it a very solitary process, especially because I don’t consider myself a “lonely artist.” I really like to speak to friends and other artists; it’s an inherent part of the process for me.

On his favorite project(s) so far:

Last spring, I did a series of paintings called “Loss of Potential Memories,” which was written in honor of my grandfather, who died falling off a bridge that he was part of the construction on. I had the song written for it, and I remember finishing it super fast. It was a really complicated thing, in the way that the painting itself reflected the complexity of the situation. I also like the painting just because it’s purple and purple is my mother’s favorite color. So, there’s a little nod to her as well.

I also did this piece called “I Think Of You (When I’m Pissed).” I really like that one because it’s very energetic. I did write it about a girl, and it was like a whole thing. I wouldn’t say I’m a “hopeless romantic” but I’m definitely a romantic person. And, I don’t know, I think in this case it works because people are passionate about the things that you are passionate about. They see the passion on the canvas and that is something they can enjoy and relate to. People also noticed how physical I became with the painting, because I had really tried to add texture to it. I remember jabbing the paintbrush into the canvas, like slapping the canvas and smacking it, letting it respond to my movements.

“Loss of Time”, Eddie Bryson ’20

On developing professionally:

Originally, the plan was to go to grad school for architecture. I ended up changing my mind due to my mom’s nonprofit for art, which I started to teach at. During that experience, I realized how much I loved being a mentor for my peers and for the younger kids, and I started thinking about being a teacher or a professor. So, last year, I decided to commit to getting my Masters in Fine Arts instead. After I finish my year with the FYEA, I plan to head back to Memphis, explore my home city and really take advantage of the vibrant arts scene around the area. I also can’t wait to see my family again, especially since my family has always been a big inspiration for me. I have always felt empowered by how proud they are of me. Their support is truly what keeps me going. It’s what I come back to, always.