A native of Dallas, where she first caught the art bug, Lance put painting on the back burner while embarking on a series of high-profile New York City jobs that included stints as a menswear designer for Basic Rights, creative-at-large for Reformation, all while playing in her rock band Bad Girlfriend. Recently, however, she’s been able to shift her focus back to what she describes as her “greatest release,” and she brought the fruits (and vegetables) of her labors to The Penthouse of The Standard, East Village for a casual exhibition on a summer evening.
On closer inspection, Lance’s paintings are highly personal and provide cheeky commentary on the challenges of modern life and their effect on her as an individual. Botanical Nudes depicts the challenges of present day dating and sex in the form of tender, cartoon-like plants with witty titles and slogans.
Before Lance welcomed friends and admirers to the show, we sat down with her at narcbar, our new East Village hangout, to hear about what she’s been up to lately and what brought about this return to painting.
BRIANNA LANCE: Yes. It’s also less business-y. You make the stuff however you want to make it, and then, whether people buy it or not is up to them. At least for me, it’s not so caught up in business and angles and just feels so much more personal.
What is Botanical Nudes about to you?
Each series I do is about a personal crisis in a weird way—the first one focused on being a modern woman. This one—even though they’re little plants—is about the disconnection people have with sex. With the internet and all this new language surrounding it, I feel like sex has become so removed from natural behavior. In contrast, the most natural thing in the world is plants.
Do you feel like the series is also about plants as living organisms?
Well, it’s sort of more about the relationship people have when they see a flower or a plant or a cactus. For example, I was thinking about how radishes have a composition that’s similar to a body. But people’s responses to the radish images have been really amazing—they love radishes. I know people can have that response to cacti and mushrooms. I didn’t know people had their favorite plants to look at in drawings and such. I thought that was really interesting.
I think of them sort of as children’s books for grown-ups. Ultimately, children’s books are about teaching heavy subjects to kids. So I wondered, “What’s the next subject you would need a book to help you with?” Being in the city, with dating apps and all this stuff, it was a way of getting a handle on that and exploring what it all is. Someone told me it’s a lot of subconscious imagery.
When did you decide to come back to painting again as an adult?
I had very serious full-time jobs for years, and then I started consulting. I left a company I owned and all of a sudden I had free time for the first time in like 8 years. I painted for fun throughout that time. Then, once I had more time to actually focus, I decided to have a show.
Is there something that unifies your different creative pursuits? Would you say there’s something identifiably “Brianna” among your projects?
Everything is to my personal taste. It’s hard to identify within myself—someone else could probably better describe it—but if anything, I’d say it’s all very free. I’m into freedom and expression.
Painting is the most subconscious and personal, so it has a different tone to it. When I’m working with a client, I’m trying to help them thrive and make more money. With music, it became very much about that. I’m taking a pause from music because it became too driven and about ‘work’ in that same way. Painting is totally different because it’s just like, my brain, my feelings.
100%, yes. I have friends who solely rely on music or painting for finances and the pressure and the way it changes your relationship to your work is really different.
What’s something you can’t draw?
I can't draw a building to save my life—anything that’s not an organic shape I have a really hard time with.
Speaking of buildings...how does New York inspire you? Can you imagine living anywhere else?
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people recently about moving to LA, or moving upstate, but I really love this city because I’m a crazy workaholic, and it’s one of the few places where I think you can be really busy and feel like it’s fine and normal and still feel at home. Other places, I think I’d feel like I’d want the pace to be faster. The rhythm of it works really well for me personally.