Things That Look Like Other Things, 2016

Suite of color pencil drawings
Dimensions vary

Solo Show at White Rabbit Gallery
March 3-31, 2016
Iowa City, IA

Volleyball for my 35th Birthday
14” x 14”

Hippies Use Backdoor (at Sam’s Pizza)
14" x 17"

Hot Mess (Accidental Still Life)
9" x 15"

Mary Lou Retton's #UnitedFlagofAmerica Leotard (for Barber)
14" x 17"

Erased Cool Ranch Clouds
14" x 17"


Artists have usually said something like, “look at this, this is what we ought to be paying attention to,” and the artist would make those things with paint and stone, making the things we ought to be looking at real and physical. Those places or things that the artists were pointing to were often ideas/emotions and one of the artist’s jobs was to give body to the immaterial. Maybe we are still concerned with those same ideas/emotions and are still puzzled with how to represent them physically, either through paint or stone or videos or performance or anything else, but artists no longer need to make pictures or objects like they used to because the world has so many pictures and objects in it already. This is why we now see so many artists pointing to already-existing things and saying, “this looks an awful lot like art to me, what if we say it is?”

This is what Breanne Trammell has an almost uncanny knack for. Her eyes are like little nets that she casts over things—things not necessarily meant to be viewed as art—that emerge from the visual din of everyday life. Take the impetus for this body of work, her drawing of a neon rainbow gradient volleyball that was actually given to her by a friend because she knew that Breanne would get a kick out of it (I’m glad it wasn’t a soccer ball). In this drawing Breanne is taking a form that exists as a designed utilitarian thing and re-presents it, according to its formal relationships to her own aesthetic, the neon rainbow gradient, as a fine art drawing. In her own words, “I love the colors.” The things that amuse Breanne become a muse for her. In this way her work is an incredibly optimistic rearranging of the stuff of this world (objects, images, volleyballs) from stuff that gets in the way to stuff imbued with potential.

But it isn’t all about pointing to things. The volleyball represents both the artist’s good and bad memories associated with playing sports. AND THESE ARE DRAWINGS! Breanne doesn’t normally do this, she is a printmaker. The drawing of the volleyball then becomes a personal symbol for her athletic shortcomings (which as a child means nothing to the children but everything to the parents’ expectations) and, as a drawing, becomes, “a direct representation of what [she] has become.” The endearing quality of the mark-making appear like not the best way to represent these pictures, it looks like a lot of work to fill in all that blue on Quiet Please. The determination and almost neurotic filling in of color through small segments of lines, until they add up to a large filled in section mimics the way we may try and fix, a sometimes all too frequent occurring phenomenon of becoming a Hot Mess. It takes work to cover up your own Hot Mess and that struggle is something we are all acquainted with. Maybe our dreams are hot messes as well, the American dream, the upward broken hope (Mary Lou Retton's #UnitedFlagofAmerica Leotard [for Barber]). So thanks Breanne, thank you for showing us how to re-invest the world with wonder or at the very least, as Daniel Johnston said, how to, “live [our] broken dreams.”

by Kyle Peets

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