Autumn Casey & Kelly Breez Talk Art

This Thursday, October 22, at 7 pm The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) is hosting two South Florida artists Autumn Casey (pictured above) and Kelly Breez (pictured below) as part of the “Conversations at MOCA” series. The artists will be discussing their past, current and future work with MOCA North Miami’s Exhibitions and Project Manager Kevin Arrow. You can reserve your spot for the free event by clicking here.  But before that we asked the artists to step on the Jitney and introduce themselves.

How did Miami influence you as an artist?

Autumn Casey: I think there is a certain vibrancy to life in Miami that is palpable. I feel like time moves more slowly down in the hot and heavy tropics of Miami that allowed me to make work that was more fluid and playful, during my time living there – I currently live in Philadelphia. Also during my younger formative years as an artist, having access to the international art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, I think was invaluable. Being exposed to such a range, and class of fine art definitely expanded my ideas of what was possible through art.

Kelly Breez: The Miami/South Florida influence on my work cannot be understated. I lived in Little Haiti for a very long time and Serge Toussaint is one of my favorite artists. His epic murals are on so many different walls and businesses in the area. I have always been inspired by how stylish his work is and how hard he goes for his city. I’m also really inspired by the industrial side of life, which I experience a lot of, between having a studio in Allapattah and driving out west to hit the thrift stores. Stuff like hard workers, tools, heavy machinery and industrial signage and the colors associated with that. It all plays into my aesthetic.

What can people expect from your ZOOM discussion with MOCA?

Casey: A lot of tears! I’m hoping to try and not ball my eyes out, but the talk is also a celebration of Kelly and I’s longstanding friendship and there are some tender moments we touch on that could get emotional. However, also the arc of each of our art careers and how they’ve intertwined and inspired each other over the past 15 or so years.

Breez: I think you’re going to learn a lot about us both as friends and artists and how that affected our trajectories so positively. This is the first time we’ve done a presentation like this, where we have drawn a direct line through all of our years proverbially “together” from early work until now. It’s going to be really cool to see our earliest stuff and how it all evolved into what we’re up to currently. I think it’s going to be a really great moment of levity with best friends. Probably some tears.

How have you spent your time during this pandemic year of 2020?

Casey: I have spent a lot of time by myself, which has actually allowed me to spend even more time making and considering my work. I’ve also been cooking way more which I have really enjoyed. I just graduated from the Master’s Program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in May, so I had to finish up classes online which was a new and somewhat frustrating experience. It was also an awkward year to graduate and try to navigate this new reality. I think a lot of people have had to deal with incredible hardships and totally recalibrate our day-to-day existence. For a while I found it hard to even make anything. But now more than ever, I look to my art practice as a form of therapy – where I can go into my studio and work out and process the stresses of current everyday life by physically molding things with my hands.

Breez: It’s been wild. In March I had just finished a five-week artist residency out at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado. I was riding high on a bunch of new inspiration and momentum and we were all in quarantine three days after I got home. So that was a crazy transition. I spent the quarantine months building off of everything I had realized and the new ideas I had at The Ranch. I spent a lot of time doing research about new materials I wanted to start working with so I could hit the ground running when I got back into the studio, to get ready for my solo show that just opened on October 10.

Has this crazy year affected your art?

Casey: As artists, we naturally respond and react to our environment, so this crazy year has just been folded into a sequence of many other crazy years that we are forced to process. I think most of all it has allowed me to slow down a little bit, to really take more time with things. For instance, I’ve been doing a lot more hand sewing, which is time consuming, but meditative. I welcome this slowed down pace.

Breez: YES. So much so that it’s hard to wrap my head around. It was a super welcome paradigm shift, though. Everything changed this year and the work I’ve made as a result is stuff I feel like I’ve been Inception-style trying to find for a while. It probably wouldn’t have happened for a while otherwise, so in that sense I’m grateful for this upside-down. It really became even more about the materials than just the overt text and colors I like to use. I feel like crazy-ass 2020 has shoved me into some sort of self- renaissance and it’s been awesome, unlike literally everything else going on right now.

Where can people see your artwork ?

Casey: People can find me on my website, or follow me on Instagram @freaky_friday_fragile.

Breez: My most recent solo show, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, is currently up at Primary Projects here in Miami, through November 10. I definitely recommend checking it out in person, as the installation aspect feels great to stand inside of, after hiding in your house for months. I’m also currently in an online exhibition called Out of Touch through Subliminal Projects in LA, that you can check out at @subliminalprojects. And, cruise through my personal Instagram, @kellybreez, for further hijinks and art.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.