Art Ready Fall 2012 Studio Visit: Michael Paul Britto, a set on Flickr.
Says Michael Paul Britto, “I make art to get a reaction out of people. I want them to leave the show still talking about the work.”
Michael is motivated by events taking place in the world, pop culture, and issues of race, class, and gender–but he explains how his work has a “humorous edge” so people “don’t take things too seriously.” A video he showed of a montage of quotes from the reality TV show “Basketball Wives” made everyone in the Art Ready group laugh, but it also had a disturbing edge, as the scenes in the video were chosen to emphasize the negative stereotypes that these women on TV are reinforcing.
Other interesting projects Michael had on display in his studio included sculptures and props inspired by racially-charged toys and products: figurines of black nannies pushing white babies in strollers, brown female figurine bottles sporting small video screens on their heads.
Michael also described how he got his start as an artist when the Studio Museum of Harlem and then the New York Times took interest in his film trailer and poster “Dirrrty Harriet Tubman,” depicting Harriet Tubman as an action movie heroine. His has also gained success as an artist through programs like the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) art career training program, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Smack Mellon residency programs. Michael had originally gone to school for film and TV commercial production, but was turned off by the racism he perceived in the industry, and decided to make work for galleries instead. To supplement his income as an artist, Michael teaches video at an alternative high school and in various after-school programs during the day, and works in his studio at night.
As his advice for young artists, Michael says, “Stick to it and don’t let anyone discourage you. ” He also explained how you don’t have to go to art school to be an artist, or “make up big words” to make your art sound impressive. Britto’s work demonstrates how artists can take their source material from the world around them–and create work that makes people see this world differently, becoming more aware of its problems, while still being entertained and inspired.