News : Artist Spotlight: Becky Brown

Former Artist Resident, Becky Brown, checks in with us from Buffalo New York!

What are you working on these days?

I continue to explore relationships between language and technology, with many new questions as more of our daily activities than ever have moved online.

My Passwords, 2020

Acrylic, house paint, pencil and ink on paper, 77 x 55.5 inches

This piece follows the advice we are all given but few of us follow: to keep a hard-copy record of our passwords. A fully-saturated list covering the full page of an oversized legal pad, it exaggerates conventions of “password strength” – including use of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols – demonstrating a distortion of the English language for maximum digital security. Meanwhile, the idiosyncratic nature of choosing passwords – favorite songs, private jokes, the names of friends or lovers – injects a sense of individual expression into a mechanical process.

Spent, 2020

Found objects and paint, 65 x 16 x 60 inches

Anderson Gallery Parking Lot / Buffalo, NY

Part of PLAY/GROUND, curated by Resource:Art and Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art

Spent is a discarded ATM with additional found objects exploding from its screen and other openings in its surface. This uncooperative machine suggests the promise of cash, and instead delivers an aggressive vomiting-up of household objects – perhaps someone’s treasured belongings; perhaps trash. It reflects legacies of disinvestment laid bare by Covid-19, now causing economic hardship rivaling the Great Depression. In the 1930s, bank runs led to bank failures; Spent is a symbol of such failure – the dry spigot, as many American jobs do not return, and government aid packages fall short. Instead of financial relief, this machine spits out a crutch and a hockey stick, forks and knives, old toys and broken electronics.

Like previous projects, it also addresses how technology changes the shape of everything, and makes “stuff” disappear. Cash has already been removed from many monetary transactions; and it’s even more scarce during Covid-19 as we opt for “no-touch” payments. ATMs may soon go the way of the payphone and boombox, the dictionary and the atlas, all now replaced by smaller, sleeker, “smart” alternatives with little material presence. Spent reflects and anticipates transitions from cash to Venmo to Bitcoin.

What has helped sustain you, and your creative practice, during this challenging time?

A comfortable live/work space. The Buffalo River and Hoyt Lake, both great destinations for long walks near my new home of Buffalo, NY. New plants. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. And (despite my suspicions of it) video-conferences with faraway family and friends.

In what way has your time and connection to North Street continued to influence your work? 

I remain grateful for the time, space, and peacefulness of North Street, as well as the opportunity to become part of a community and region I was previously unfamiliar with. Our “open house” and other social events were so warm and welcoming. I was thinking of Willits this fall in particular during fire season, as I remembered the fire and air quality dangers back in summer ’18, and I know this region will only become more vulnerable. I was also grateful I got to experience redwoods during a magically winding bus ride from Willits to Fort Bragg, accompanied by only the kindest bus-driver.

I continue to try to channel “residency energy” in my regular/real life and elements of Lynea’s workshop often still resonate.

What message(s) do you have for the North Street community?

Sending love to all through the orbits and hoping our paths cross again someday (look me up if anyone comes through Buffalo, NY)


North Street Collective