Photos by Ty Swenson
Canadian artist Brent Ray Fraser performs live art at the Mind Unwind gallery and studio in West Seattle on June 14. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE.

SLIDESHOW: Canadian artist brings performance art to Mind Unwind

As Brent Ray Fraser prepared his oil sticks and sized up his massive canvas plastered with a backdrop of nostalgic nude photography of the female form from decades bygone, an eclectic musical score filling the studio with deep bass, a woman came up and asked what he was going to paint.

“I have no idea,” he replied, “You are going to find out with me.”

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West Seattle art aficionados were treated to a live art performance from Fraser, a Canadian artist, on June 14 as part of the monthly West Seattle Artwalk, while tasting the Siren Song wines of local vintner Kevin Brown.

Fraser’s “Nostalgia” collection is adorning the walls of Mind Unwind, the Admiral District art gallery and studio located at 2206A California Ave S.W, until the end of June; its first stop on an international tour. The artist had made two trips from north of the border to interact with his audience (and potential customers), which he describes as a critical part of his artistic process.

It started with self-evaluation.

“I started performing for myself; I taught myself to paint,” Fraser said. “I went to art school for like 11 years but didn’t take one painting course, so when I started painting I couldn’t really base it off anything people had told me, so I taught myself and started videotaping myself.”

Fraser said he prefers to work fast, not giving himself time to think, and the recordings allowed him to look back on his process and learn from it.

Then, in 2004, he decided to start sharing the act with others. “Painting is art,” as he says on his website, www.brentrayfraser.com.

“I needed more of an audience, I wanted to do it for an audience so I started doing that .. and I guess people were engaged by watching me paint for whatever reason,” he said. “Maybe it’s the before and after, I don’t know what it is, and then in doing that I started liking the audience … I like the energy and building off of that, right, it helps motivate me, it helps inspire me, it’s kind of profound actually. I really like the stage.”

The Nostalgia collection is described by Mind Unwind’s Krystal Kelley as “a vintage mixed media collection on stretched fabric that incorporates glimpses of old-school cartoon imagery, pinup memorabilia, decorative motifs and print media alongside charcoal, acrylic paint and spray paint. This layering technique creates paintings that have depth, interest and entertain the viewer.”

Fraser said the most important decision in his life was choosing art school at Emily Carr University after high school, instead of his other two options: becoming a mechanic or joining the army.

For the younger generation of artists coming to a similar life junction, he said, “It is extremely tough to make money because you are kind of selling yourself. I don’t make art to sell, and that’s the key, it is to enjoy doing it and stick behind it no matter what. I always tell people it’s the rules of attraction. Good things and good people get good in return. Good gets good. You have to stay positive about things and do what you love. Only good can come from that.”

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Fraser got lost in his work, crafting the re-creation of a 1970s pinup girl in grayscale over his collage homage to classic erotica. Art-goers at Mind Unwind were transfixed upon his process, as was a group of young males walking along California, as one peered inside and tugged the shirt of his cohort to admire the larger-than-life female form taking shape.

Fraser would occasionally snap away and engage the audience, accepting a glass of Siren Song at one point and naming the woman cooperatively with his audience. She became known as Alexis.

The Nostalgia collection will be on display, and for sale, at Mind Unwind until the end of June, including Alexis once she has a chance to dry.

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