Ceramics Monthly: As an independent curator, what concepts, ideas, or goals guide the exhibitions that you create?
Brian Malnassy: The hard part about this question is that my previous job was at a for-profit arts center, where I had a lot of curatorial opportunities and didn’t directly face the challenges of finding funding or space. There’s a lot of responsibility when given access to circumventing these challenges, and so one of the main concepts I consider now is equality.
When I first started curating exhibitions, I did not have a sincere narrative. It’s difficult to learn sincerity in college, because it’s not something you can really be taught. As the years went on, I started realizing that artists do not have equal representation. The artists I exhibited early on in my career had notoriety and established careers. I felt like I could better serve and impact the ceramics and craft community by working harder and doing more research to find artists with unheard voices. My curatorial goal now, as I work independently is to present these underserved/unheard voices and conversations. I volunteer with a group that employs artists with developmental and intellectual differences. My mission is to help elevate their artistic practices and experiences through fine-art auctions, professional artist studio visits, and an artist enterprise program.
CM: How has your earlier experience as the gallery director at Lillstreet Art Center informed your approach to curating?
BM: Having worked at Lillstreet for over 10 years, I was exposed to many craft mediums, creative people, and concepts. When programming a year of exhibitions, I considered a few main concepts: education, material, and technique. I was always researching newness and what the “next thing” was. Inversely, I would also program exhibitions based on teaching lineage and community. This happened organically as I made more connections with artists and teachers. Lillstreet exposed me to a lot of different ways of thinking and creating while empowering me to use those thoughts and ideas. Because of Lillstreet’s educational mission, I always consider what a viewer will take away from an exhibition. I aim for that experience to have, at the very least, a lingering impact.
CM: Has curating impacted your own studio practice? If so, how?
BM: I approach making art as a completely separate practice from curation, but the two ultimately connect. My studio practice is intensely emotional and my curatorial practice is more cognitive. I am fortunate enough to have intimately examined and researched amazing works in multiple mediums. Being immersed in diverse artwork intellectually influenced me and eventually shaped my current practice of emotional and material-driven sculptural work. At times, it has also been very infuriating because I am constantly trying not to be directly influenced by the exciting concepts and works I have exposed myself to.
Photo: The Marks Project. Plate by Sean O’Connell.