Brigid Burns

Like most of us, Brigid Burns is trying to make something of the world around her, but in a much more tangible way than most of us attempt. “I wonder who or what I would have been if I hadn’t spent all these years addictively shooting everything around me and making something of it,” says the Asheville-based photographer and painter.

Although her mother took up painting once her children were grown, and two of Brigid’s aunts continue to wield palettes and brushes, Brigid had no formal art training until her post-college years in New Orleans, and characterizes her early efforts at “making something” in crafts work and collage as “nothing serious. Just creative play”.  But after moving to Asheville and its lively arts community thirty years ago, photography began to draw her into a more serious pursuit of an artistic career, particularly when she began traveling with her camera. “Travel was a big influence,” Brigid says, “primarily an extensive and rich exposure to Mexico, its churches, the art and architecture, the sense of design and color. All those Virgin Mary blues, iron oxide reds and yellow ochers. It was an excess in expression that I hadn’t seen before.” By the 1980's, Brigid had begun exhibiting small, delicate works fashioned from photographs on which she had lightly painted or drawn, using the luxuriant colors she’d admired during her travels. Brigid, who is a co-owner of Asheville’s Iris Photo and Digital Imaging, prints her own negatives in a traditional darkroom before applying paint and bits of fabric, most evident in her “Momento” series of the past few years. “It’s a very organic process,” Brigid says. “I work very intuitively and let things happen. The less I control it, the better the results.” 

The “Momento” works also owe a debt to Brigid’s travels abroad, where she began noticing the ubiquitous, tattered posters and fliers pasted over generations on ancient town walls. “They eventually become part of the art of that wall, acquiring a sense of time, of being added to, of decay and layers. They created a sense of history and specialness for me, like a keepsake.” 

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