Bart Exposito Q&A

The following interview was conducted over email on April 19, 2023. Bart Exposito painted the Scribes in Buzzys from March 11-14, 2023

Brackett Creek Exhibitions: Where are you now? 

Bart Exposito: I'm in a small village in Northern New Mexico called Dixon. We're about 20 miles South of Taos. Dixon sits in the Rio Embudo valley and is flanked on both sides by Pinion and Juniper forested foothills of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and the Rio Embudo that flows thought the valley. It's an interesting place as it is very much high desert, but can also be pretty lush in the warm months because of the river and the historic irrigation channels called Aceuqias that form these sort of veins that flow through the valley. It's really beautiful and wild.

Dixon, New Mexico

BCE: There has been a history of artists moving from urban space to rural space—what made you move out of Los Angeles? Do you feel connected to other artists who have done the same?

BE: A good friend of mine in LA took me fly fishing in the local mountains just outside of LA one day and it completely changed my life. I had been in a non-stop multi-year grind in the studio. I was burning out and that day in nature woke something up in me. I became obsessed with nature, fishing, hiking, camping, etc., which eventually led my partner and I to uproot and leave the city for a rural life in New Mexico. I've always been intrigued by artists that left the art world to do their thing in unexpected places. The art world can feel like a mono-culture at times and I find people that are willing to go outside of that brave and interesting.

Bart on a fly fishing trip at Los Pinos River, New Mexico

BCE: When you were making the wall paintings, we touched on the lifestyle you live in New Mexico and how a bustling city such as New York (its layout, its rituals, its pace), now feels entirely foreign. By re-situating yourself within a more challenging natural environment, how does that affect your practice? Do daily chores become part of the practice, or inform the practice?

BE: Whenever I'm in a city now it definitely feels foreign. One of the biggest challenges out here has been the isolation. I love it for the most part but there are times when it can be difficult. I love being in a big city from time to time and think the contrast between urban and rural is an interesting space to navigate. We only have one little cafe here that serves food on a somewhat limited basis so eating out is not really an option for us. Everything is now centered around an idea of "home." We like to refer to our property as an "artist homestead." We grow food, raise chickens, heat with firewood that we collect, and spend a good deal of our time stewarding our land. This can involve anything from restoring soil health, recovering from flash floods or ongoing prep for wild fire threats. We are also engaged in "earthen building" projects around our property. We have two strawbale houses, a tiny house, and a very old adobe house that we are restoring. Everything we're doing on that front is low-impact and uses natural building materials as much as possible. This approach extends into many other areas of our lives here as well. All that said, art is still at the center of these endeavors. My working habits have changed a bit and the cold months are when I really like to hunker down in the studio. It's super quiet out here in the Winter and I can be really productive without any distractions. I also like the idea that art can be a part of a process that involves aspects of homesteading and lines up with the cycles of the seasons. It's all connected in my opinion, although the paintings and drawings I make may resonate more in an urban setting. I still haven't figured that one out. I just know I don't want the work to be too specific to "place."

BCE: The work you were making in Los Angeles was abstract (some had mentioned pop abstraction, neo hard-edge, and post painterly abstraction). Now there are the figures (Scribes) in your work. Why/how did that change take place?

BE: The work really took a turn around the 2016 election. I was super pissed about the Trump election. I wanted the work to talk about what I was experiencing, so things took a turn towards the figurative. I wanted the work to be more legible and possibly relatable. A lot of the same things are still there in the work, but it hopefully engages the everyday in a way it wasn't previously.

Bart Exposito
Scribes, 2022
Acrylic and charcoal on paper, 29 x 21”

BCE: What is a Scribe and where did that term come from?

BE: A Scribe is a messenger of sorts that takes notes. A court reporter is probably the most common type of Scribe nowadays. I like the term and how it refers to writing or language and is also a figure that is receiving or documenting some type of message. The figures in my work that I refer to as "Scribes" look like they're receiving some sort of message or task. They just don't know what to do with it, a relatable gesture in my life.

BCE: What kind of community is lost and what is gained in choosing to live in rural spaces?

BE: Being separate from my community of friends in LA has been really challenging. I don't think I anticipated how hard that would be. The dialogue around my work and friends work is gone and the late nights on a bar stool are gone too. The rural life has so many great things about it. I mentioned my love of nature, and I'm now totally immersed in that. It feels good to be engaged with the land especially now that climate change is a constant threat. This connection to the elements is everything. I just hope I can share it with friends at some point be it old or new friends.

BCE: What did the bar mean to you and your practice? What does it mean to you now being back in a bar?

BE: When I was in Brooklyn working on the pieces for Buzzys, I would pop in a little dive bar just down the street after I worked. I hadn't done anything like this since well before covid. It felt great to sit at the bar. It made me feel nostalgic but not to the point where I would want that to be a part of everyday life the way it was at Hop Louie. The Hop Louie days were special in so many ways. They weren't necessarily the healthiest of times, though.

Doing an installation of "Scribes" in a bar feels like the perfect space for them to inhabit. The figures are the sort of down and out people that are kind of sad, angry, weathered, etc. They smoke and some of them have knives in their heads. Not to suggest that people that hang out in bars are blown out, but that a bar might be a respit from the grind of everyday life. I guess I'm back on the bar stool in that way.

Scribe Wall Painting in Buzzys