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In the Studio of….

Briden Cole Schueren

Just as the weather began to change from a very brief fall to being bitterly cold, Briden Cole Schueren welcomed me into his home for a studio visit. We discussed his artistic journey while he prepared for an interview with a modeling agency.  Within the last year Briden has had the opportunity to model in front of the camera, a much different experience from being behind the lens that he is accustomed to.  This modeling opportunity led to being managed by an agency in New York and the interview he is preparing for is with a sister agency in Columbus.  The experience of being the subject rather than the creator has enriched Briden’s outlook in two ways.  First, he has a much deeper understanding of what the model is going through. Second, it has forced him to extend outside of his comfort zone.  He is a very warm and welcoming person but admits to feeling awkward and being shy.  Having to perform for the camera forces the feelings of shyness inward, allowing a sense of confidence to exude in the resulting photograph.

Photograph by Staley Monroe

Briden studied graphic design at the University of Dayton and took some photography classes at Columbus State.  As a child he watched and worked with his artist grandmother but is mostly self-taught in his current artistic practice.  Early on in this practice he focused on photography but has expanded his media and material use after his camera was stolen.  It was not the thievery itself however that expanded his artistic horizon, but the process of replacing the piece of equipment.  To raise the funds for a new camera, Briden created small paintings and other works of art to sell.  As he sold more pieces, he became aware that he was making more money from these endeavors than he had from his photographs. 

One challenge outside of the realm of photography, set forth by the former 83 Gallery, was to create art from old truck hoods.  Briden took on the task but did not simply want to paint onto the surface as many artists were, but rather to carve his imagery into the metal.  The piece was shown at the 83 Gallery, then was exhibited at a restaurant, and finally sold to the business that came in after the restaurant closed.  The aesthetic of the piece and success of the sale spurred Briden to create more pieces carved into metal.  However, it was not just the aspect of carving into the metal that the artist enjoyed, but the reclaiming of something old; something that was destined for the trash heap, and transforming it into something elevated to the status of art.  An unanticipated set back from the practice resulted in wrist surgery, initially spurred on from rock climbing and exacerbated by the carving. This forced Mr. Schueren to take an extended break from the carving process. 

Other endeavors of note are a piece Briden exhibited in a show at 400 West Street in the Promenade Gallery, and a grant he received from the Greater Columbus Arts Council.  The piece exhibited in the Promenade Gallery was a photograph addressing the struggles of being a transgender person/individual.  A very personal realization was addressed in the work, the purpose of which was not to showcase, but also not to hide under the radar; be “stealth” as he explains. Being comfortable with himself and authentic with others was the main objective behind the art work.  The grant he received from the GCAC was for an invention; a bicycle with a vendor cart attached to it.  When setup, the vendor booth would be solar powered, rain resistant, and allow artists to setup shop to sell pieces quickly and easily.  He saw the process through but ran out of the necessary funds for proper video documentation in order to gain funds for production.

Now that a portion of Briden’s past artistic efforts have been explored, his most recent exhibition at the Gateway for the Arts at the John Glenn International Airport will be put into perspective.  He initially applied for a group show but was asked to exhibit his own work instead.  He admits that he was initially intimidated but quickly set himself to the task.  He landed on utilizing recycled materials to create his pieces while exploring themes of nature, and color.  His inspiration was drawn from the time spent painting with his grandmother as a child, as well as, from the surrealism and color palette of artist Salvador Dali, and the illustrations of Dr. Seuss. The works created are comprised of a centerpiece wall with over one-hundred small canvases that create a larger surrealist landscape, flowers carved into the rusted lids of metal drums with vivid painted blocks of color, Icelandic photographs displayed in metal boxes that are made to look like take-out containers, and a photograph stitched with discarded string.  While the canvases that make up the center wall are a traditional art surface, these canvases are recycled in the sense that a local establishment was going to throw them out.  Briden enjoys the exchange of creating natural themes while also preserving nature by keeping discarded items out of landfills.   Another aspect of creating art from reclaimed materials that enhances the work is the interplay of the natural process of the rust on the metal as part of his color palette.  The rust is juxtaposed by excavating the flower from the aged surface, revealing the clean metal underneath. This juxtaposition is something the artist hopes to continue to explore in future works. 

Other projects that Mr. Schueren has or is undertaking include transforming an old school bus into a home, starting a magazine, Quorum Columbus, with a group of friends, and being a co-founder and driving force for Brickbox Studios located in Grandview Heights.  The term Renaissance Man may be cliché but perfectly fits this model, inventor, studio founder, rock climbing, artist.  His journey has been filled with a willingness to go in new directions rather than trying to fit some preconceived notion of what he should be doing with his life.  When his camera was stolen, he painted.  When asked to model, he overcame his shyness.  When car parts were presented as materials, he created.  When asked to create a solo exhibition, he did it.  Being willing to take on the new, the unknown, has shaped Briden Cole Schueren into the artist he is today and is something that every artist needs to learn to embrace.

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