During Young Contemporaries 2021, Halsey Institute interns interviewed students in Young Contemporaries and the Salon des Refusés. Here, Emma Lang interviews artist Brooke Conner, whose work The Judgement of Paris was accepted into Young Contemporaries.
What inspired you to create The Judgement of Paris?
I was actually inspired by two different things to create this piece. I was firstly inspired by classical paintings depicting stories of Greek mythology. For this painting I chose the myth of Paris where he has to give a golden apple to the most beautiful goddess. The painting is supposed to be from Paris’s perspective where he is deciding between Athena, goddess of wisdom, Hera, queen of the heavens and wife of Zeus and Aphrodite, goddess of love. A fun little detail you can see is that Hera is actually holding the golden apple in her hand (although in the myth Paris ends up deciding on Aphrodite resulting in the events of the Trojan War)
The second bit of inspiration I took was from the dresses of designer Charles Fredrick Worth. His turn-of-the-century gowns are famous around the world and I used photos of three of his dresses that I thought would best fit the three goddesses.
How long did it take to complete?
This painting took over a year to complete and it was definitely a labor of love. I worked on it on and off throughout that time and changed many of my original designs. Just the face and arm of the goddess on the left (Athena) took me two months to complete!
Where do you practice your art?
I practice my art by doing paintings. I like to choose subjects that are challenging and learn through the process of completing them. This painting for example I did as a challenge to see if I could capture detail in clothing and replicate fabric accurately with oil paint. Completing challenging pieces like this teach me a lot about painting and also give me satisfaction in accomplishing what I set out to do.
What is your creative process?
My creative process is extremely long and though out. I will spend months at a time brainstorming, researching and compiling reference photos before ever putting paint to canvas! Pinterest and photoshop are tools I utilize to find inspiration and put reference photos together in a way that I feel satisfied I can use to best create my art.
How long have you been creating art? What got you started?
I’ve been drawing for fun as long as I can remember, but I really got into painting around sophomore year of high school. I was doing a painting for fun from the musical Les Miserables which ended up turning out way better than I expected it to. That’s what really made me think “shoot, I can actually do this” and I’ve been painting ever since.
What is the primary medium you most often use?
I started out using acrylic paint, mostly because it was the only medium, I had access to at the time, and I managed to get pretty good at it. I eventually realized it wasn’t giving me the professional results I wanted, especially in portraiture. I started working with oil paint senior year of high school, knowing basically nothing about the medium, and as of now I switch between acrylic and oil depending on what I think would best fit painting.
How many hours went into this piece?
Oh, I’d say definitely over a hundred hours at least! I rarely keep track of the time I spend on each piece and because oil takes quite a long time to dry, I would often go weeks and months at a time without working on it.
Would you make any changes to it?
Yes, I definitely would. I am my own worst art critic and there are parts of the painting I really can’t stand to look at. Particularly, the goddess on the right, (Aphrodite), her face is much darker than I would have liked. This is due to multiple repainting that built up darker paint that I was unable to get rid of. Another change I would make is with the sleeve of the goddess on the left (Athena) as it was one of the few parts of the dresses I completely made up and I was trying to draw inspiration from the laurel wreaths of classical Greek mythology. While I’m sure to the average viewer it looks fine, I personally am not completely satisfied with how it came out.
Do you have any artistic influences? Or artists that inspire you?
I have many artists that inspire me, but my favorite artist of all time is John Singer-Sargent who is most famous for his painting “Madame X”. I personally love his style of using gestural paint marks to create fabric as well as his subject matter, often of women from the same time period I was trying to reference in this work (that being the 1880’s to the 1900’s)
What do you plan to do after college?
Not sure yet! I am looking into working at historic houses or museums but also might pursue painting on the side.
Do you showcase your work anywhere?
I am currently looking into an opportunity to display my artwork that I received from Young Contemporaries!