Curt is an amazing sculptor. His work www.curtbrill.com is so elegant, organic and warm. It’s clear that he’s been at sculpture for more than a few decades. I wanted to find out what inspires him to create such profound works. Here’s our cool chat …
MICHAEL: Hey Curt, I'm so glad you want to chat. Your work is beyond! Those elegant sculptures are so warm and fun. I feel like I'm connecting with an old friend while looking at your work. What inspires you to create?
CURT: Hi Michael, I am happy to chat with you and honored that you discovered my work. Being the son of a truck driving father and an aspiring painter mother gave me a unique view of the world. At an early age, I had a wonderful blend of a colorful fantasy world and healthy desire for physical work. Sculpture has been the perfect outlet. When my friends in high school were out on Friday and Saturday evenings, I was often found at bus stations and airports people watching and drawing. I am endlessly amused by watching people; their way of standing, sitting, gesturing with their hands and feet and watching the endless array of how people choose to comb their hair.
MICHAEL: That people watching has paid off big. Your installations have this organic, fluid quality that I haven't seen in sculpture until now. You seem to be giving the works an animated quality, No?
CURT: Michael, You have a uniquely insightful, visual eye. I have always loved gesture, so both in my drawing and sculpture, the gesture must always carry the work. I like the work to appear on the verge of movement; too much detail and the work becomes locked in time. As the pieces began to increase in scale to life-sized, the animated quality became a more central focus. While working on them, I would constantly fantasize about the sensation of what I would experience if I were sitting in a public bus someplace lost in my own world and the "wake up" I might experience if one of my pieces walked in and sat down next to me. I want them to remain loose and free and oddly familiar, like our friends who allow us to see them in their unguarded state. Now that the work is monumental in scale, I enjoy the fact that the animated quality keeps the heroics out of the equation.
MICHAEL: Monumental in scale. I love that. But the larger the art work, the bigger the headache and work load, No? It must be really complicated to create such large works. What do you consider monumental in scale?
CURT: For me, the monumental scale is the most fun and most fulfilling. The rewards and enjoyment of creating large works far surpasses the challenges. Most of time, creating the originals in the studio is a very solitary time. I love the physicality of working large scale. Then, once the piece reaches the stage of completion in bronze, the group effort and team work involved with the welders and patina artists is a great joy to me. The monumental scale pieces stand from 10' to 15' tall while the seated pieces ...if they were to stand up might be 20' to 25' tall.
MICHAEL: I also love your drawings and ceramics. You're definitely a complete artist. Where does all of this creativity come from? How and when did you become an artist?
CURT: Some of my earliest recollections included my desire to create art along with my early career in dance. I remember copying pencil drawings of Van Gogh's when I was less than ten years old as well as creating clay dinosaurs that I meticulously wrapped in aluminum foil and preserved in my family's freezer - maybe still there - left to be unearthed someday.
I don't recall ever having decided to become an artist. By the time I was mature enough to have actually made that decision, it had been made for me. I was showing and selling my work early on and really never even thought about the career decision part of it. I just always found myself drawing and creating objects and that joy and inspiration for creating has just always been with me.
MICHAEL: Since you also create drawings, does that mean you draw out sculptures before you actually make them or are drawings a completely separate genre for you?
CURT: I don't use my drawings as blueprints for sculptures. The process of drawing and the process of sculpting are very different. Drawings are a form of active meditation for me. When I draw, I work very quickly, stepping out of my daily thinking mode and I tend to let the drawings develop on their own. The drawings often inspire and inform the sculptures, but I try to let the process of sculpting create its own momentum and direction, the drawing process opens that door. Whenever I have tried to determine the piece ahead of time, the work loses its freshness, its natural spontaneity.
MICHAEL: Sculpture seems to be this genre that's trapped in the Greek Revival or Neoclassical periods. Most people don't think of it as contemporary let alone accessible. How do you address this through your work? I mean, most people can't afford sculpture let alone have the personal space for it.
CURT: My pursuit has always been a bit more personal. In the process of creating, I really don't address what happens with the work once it is done nor can I explain how or if my work fits the trends and whims of the current art world. I have looked back on pieces that I created more than 35 years ago and believe that they still stand the test of time. I have been very fortunate. My work has always been the central core of my life. It is what keeps me inspired and motivated. I am extremely grateful for the collectors who’ve made considerable financial commitments to owning my work and I’m equally grateful for the fact that my work has put me in contact with such wonderful people who do make living with art their priority. I’ve kept in touch with many of them over the years and many of them reappear at different stages of my creative development and they seem to find continued value in supporting my growth by purchasing work at varying stages of my career. I believe that collectors know that by supporting artist's work they do have a hand in the need we all have for the survival of the arts.
MICHAEL: I've often wondered about this ... how do outdoor sculptures last so long in harsh conditions? Is the process different for work that will be indoors compared to outdoor or public works?
CURT: Most of my work is bronze which will last forever whether it is indoors or outdoors. Since bronze is an inert metal, it does not rust or oxidize. The patina colors will change, but the sculpture itself is very stable as opposed to many other materials that will not hold up outdoors and over time will deteriorate.
MICHAEL: How much of a role does technology play in what you do? Apart from the materials you use, is what you do now very different from what Michelangelo did with David?
CURT: Up until the enlarging stage, the working techniques have not changed very much. I work with clay on armatures, use models to create the originals and rely on my hands and my eyes to do all the creative work. Once I begin the enlargements, technology does give me some advantages over Michelangelo's working techniques. My originals are digitally-scanned, creating a computer file that is then used on a CNC machine that cuts out the shape of the original from a foam block. At that point, the piece is usually about 75% complete at which point I once again take over to complete the sculpting by hand. I now consider the application of the high- tech computer skills to be like a studio assistant. The most important part, which is the aesthetics of my work, is completely left to me. I am essentially a "modeler." I create my pieces in clay by building them up. Michelangelo was a master carver. He worked subtractively. The vision of a carver and a modeler can be very different. Coincidentally, I am currently working on a "Curt Brill" style version of Michelangelo's David.
MICHAEL: Wow. Might I suggest you name him Michael? LOL. Isn't it amazing and frustrating that even today when you mention sculpture to the everyday person, they'd likely cite David if they know anything at all? The lack of art education means so many people are missing out or they think that art in general is bullcrap and not worth their time. What do you think about this?
CURT: Firstly, I think that we can name him "Michael." It is a bit sad to realize how limited people's general knowledge of art education is, but if we can at least increase our levels of art appreciation, I believe that we would all benefit. Pre-historic man felt the need to create art, beautiful cave paintings, and we can only imagine the kinds of song and dance that they engaged in as they gathered around a camp fire consuming a freshly-caught meal, viewing the night skies and appreciating each other’s company and participation.
MICHAEL: Nice! Of course, there are millions of Michaels in the world. Finally Curt, What do you consider the measure of success? Museum purchases of your work? Solo shows? Fame and riches and an estate in Boca? What's your goal and what's the point of art anyway? Who cares?
CURT: My measure of success is just to be able to keep creating. All the other parts, the museum purchases, the fame and riches, as you put it, are pieces in the link that help to keep me working. I have throughout my life been very fortunate. I have had a career that has supported and enriched my life for 40 years. I have also had the good fortune of having many friends in the arts in their 80's and 90's working and creating and leading vibrant, healthy lives. I am so very inspired by watching these friends creating throughout their lives. They have shown me how fulfilling this journey is. It is with them in mind that I clearly see the benefits of continuing my life of creating. I am always thinking of my next works...
MICHAEL: Very cool. Thanks Curt. Great chat.
Check out Curt Brill and his work at www.curtbrill.com.