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Austen Brantley

Austen Brantley (Detroit, United States) makes sculptures and installations. With Plato's allegory of the cave mind, Brantley creates work through labour-intensive processes which can be seen explicitly as a personal exorcism ritual. They are inspired by a nineteenth-century tradition of works, in whihc an ideal 'Fulfilled Absence' was seen as the pinnacle. 

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Artist Statement

Austen Brantley often creates the women in clay that he wishes were in his everyday life. That might inspire him and still him away from mundane experiences. His pieces become a metaphor for sirens that steal him as an escape from modern reality into a world with endless possibilities and fantastical dreamscapes. His new series of work rebels and accentuates these nymph fantasies with sculptures of women seducing the viewer to escape as well. 

Curatorial Statement

Brantley glorifies women throughout his work demonstrated in MUSÉ. He considers his pieces to be “a metaphor for sirens that steal him as an escape from modern reality” and brings him to a world with “endless possibilities and fantastical dreamscapes.” Many have come to know his work involves shared strands empowering the beauty within Black hair; where interwoven locks of braids and intertwined limbs of figures are emerging from the crown of a grander figure. He is contemporizing the classical, naturalistic, and romantic in a way that brings virtue to Greek and African antiquities and feminine beauty- past and present alike. Brantley molds materiality into a reality where all can spectate. His sculptures are fragments or moments of a whole, where he often focuses on the bust, head, or crown. An outsider can look in on each figure, though many of the figures’ eyes are shut, and discover details that require movement and dissection. Viewers truly have to revolve around Brantley’s work to gain insight on the full picture. With eyes closed, his figures appear as though they are in a state of meditation, contemplation, rest, prayer, or solace. They are graceful and would certainly grace any collection.

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