Brave step forward in art 

Exhibition propels urban art into North America’s art scene

By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival

What: Brave Art

When: April 13-20

Where: Telus Conference Centre

Admission: Free

Like his paintings, Portland artist Jesse Reno could have never predicted the final product of participating in last year’s Brave Art exhibition at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

The self-taught, mixed-media painter tries to keep himself in the dark as long as possible when tackling a new canvas, or canvases — with as many as 15 works on the go at once.

Jumping around from each work, Reno is free from attachment, letting a bull shapeshift into a human and duck if creative inspiration desires, or letting purple collide with yellow. With more paintings on the go, there is more inspiration, more to look forward to and less worry about decision making — he can always come back, fool around with another image or take satisfaction in completing one with others on the go.

From what he calls moving from “mess” to mess, he steals ideas from each work, peeling off pieces of paper he has fastened to canvas or wood, drawing random lines and scraping at a collage of colour, texture and symbols he layers on top of each other until the subconscious decides to make itself known.

“The more I work on, the more freed up I am and the less I get caught up in an idea — if there is an enemy within, it is that,” Reno says from his home studio in Oregon. “I paint pretty loose. I try to find meaning in it. I paint layers and layers and make a mess and go at it and then get rid of the parts I don’t like and then try to assess what I made at the end. Once I assess it, I try to apply it to my life and see what I should be learning or what I am ignoring or what I need to know. Since last year, I just got further into my work that way.”

The rumblings of this intimate relationship between creator and creation began when Reno eagerly agreed to paint live at the festival’s Brave Art showing last year. Reno hung up the phone after chatting with show curator Cec Annett thinking, what have I done?

But amongst the mess sprang forward opportunity after opportunity, with the subconscious of great art taking its place in reality in art galleries along North America’s west coast.

“After Brave Art last year, I got picked up immediately by a gallery in Vancouver,” Reno said. “They took my art leftover from the Brave Art show, which wasn’t much.”

Commissions, showings in L.A., Portland, Vancouver and other parts of Canada, and live painting performances ensued. Brave Art helped spiral the emerging artist into fully embracing his craft, cultivated professionally over the past four years.

Brave Art is a showcase of urban street art ranging from graffiti to skatedeck mediums created by North America’s leading talents showing at the festival April 13 to 20 at the Telus Conference Centre.

Legends such as Shepard Fairey, Retna and local talent Lauren Javor are only a few of the artists who will grace the walls with cutting-edge works.

“There was a thousand people on opening night,” Reno recounts of the 2006 Brave Art. “People of all ages came through. The whole place buzzed with an amazing energy. They had DJs going on about 10 live painters at work. There was a lot of activity going on.”

Brave Art is anything but a dry art showing. The funky showcase is as original as the artists. The event aims to amaze crowds while at the same time expose established as well as up and coming artists.

Like the flowers Reno paints symbolizing growth, Brave Art has helped the artist take a brave step forward in overcoming, or at least painting, his inner struggle for expression.

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