Brad Burkhart’s art explores the collective, cultural calling many of us feel to reintegrate intuition with rationality.
As an undergraduate art major at Kalamazoo College, I traveled extensively in Europe absorbing the profound influences of medieval and Renaissance artists. There, I was struck by the shift I saw represented in the art from this period, when human consciousness moved from a spiritual orientation to an intellectual orientation.
Later, thinkers such as Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Leonard Schlain, Suzi Gablik, and Riane Eisler, all of whom address the value of integrating intuitive knowing with rational thought, began to lend inspiration to my artistic concept and purpose.
My relationship with nature and ecology led me to also study horticulture and landscape design. I eventually became a leader in native habitat restoration in Southern California. The healing influence of the natural world resonates in many of my sculptures.
I began creating and exhibiting these sculptures in the late 80's. In 2012 when I retired from my career in habitat restoration, I began focusing exclusively on my artwork. My clay relief panels depict mythic, intuitively derived scenes that seem to offer a story about how we can address the deep sense of alienation from self, nature, and one another that many people experience today. Below is a brief description of how my process has evolved over the years.
MY ARTISTIC VISION AND INTUITIVE PROCESS
Art by Intuition
Like many artists, I reach beyond the conscious, commenting, language-oriented mind and into the intuitive part of the psyche to create my imagery. Through a unique process of artistic inquiry, I grope for meaning in an as yet unseen future, where internal reconciliation of the individual with the world is possible.
I am convinced that humanity feels a hunger for this reconciliation at present, and we are poised to expand beyond a dualistic relationship with reality and self. My entire artistic process is an offering to this cultural expansion.
Intuitive Sketching Leads to Clay Relief Sculptures
I begin with automatic drawing in pencil, creating random lines that gradually generate images and become compositionally refined into a final sketch. For years, I created only these two-dimensional sketches… until sudden inspiration dawned in response to Ghiberti’s bas-relief panels on the Golden Doors of the Baptistery in Florence, Italy.
I painstakingly began experimenting with clays, tools, techniques, and kilns to find a way to translate the soulful scenes of my sketches into three-dimensional bas-relief works of fine art.
Like the panels of the Golden Doors, my sculptures feel alive, and they invite an integration of the human spirit; yet, unlike the traditional religious iconography of Ghiberti, my drawings produce a range of mythic and spiritual archetypes, some recognizable, others needing interpretation.
The images in each finished sculpture are, at first, confusing. They portray scenes with beings that do not exist in the “real” world, thus sparking the imagination of the viewer in a way that can be deeply affecting. Pieces often generate strong and sometimes contradictory responses as viewers grapple to understand them.
Revealing the Story in Each Sculpture
Over time, I discovered that the story of each sculpture becomes more fully revealed when I facilitate a community naming process, ideally with about 6-10 people from diverse backgrounds. When we gather to share and discuss our unique, personal responses to a piece, we are challenged to name the story it tells so it includes all points of view. This is often cathartic for the group, and it infuses the sculpture with more insight and meaning than I could have produced alone!
I was surprised at first that such consensus was possible, since it goes against the post-modern notion that art does not and should not have objective meaning. It’s significant in these times of cultural division that when one of my pieces receives a name through group consensus, the process fosters bonds of community. None are left isolated in silos of opinion. This capacity for cooperative consensus, dear supporter, is the true basis of a thriving, collaborative culture.
The Oracle of Each Story
I believe art holds an important role for our ability to address modern circumstances with holistic understanding. As the stories in the sculptures are revealed, they catalyze discoveries of truth about the world, reintegrating the importance of intuition at a time when logic and analysis have been valued to a fault.
I observe that interacting with my artwork enables viewers to shift into a spiritual relationship with reality, a mode of presence that is mostly lost from our common cultural experience. The panels express deep prehistory in a modern, accessible way, calling us to return to something known but forgotten, to discern the meaning the images bring to us through our common connections with one another, our past, and our future.
When they are brought into one’s home, the sculptures continuously nurture an owner’s sense of mystery and intuition, providing moral inspiration for conscious, appropriate, future actions.
I feel passionate about creating art that reconnects individuals and groups with a universal quality of intuitive understanding. Fostering this experience is the mission I am most committed to in my art, and I offer my sculptures as a source of renewal for our shared culture.
I invite you to join the conversation. Please visit my website to subscribe to my email list, or reach out to schedule a private showing.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA, USA