Cooper Union alum Mitsuko Brooks is an artist whose creative impulses took hold of her at a very young age. Brooks’ lifelong involvement in the arts has made her body of work a dynamic and variant collection of processes, media and interests. She has been involved with BRIC Arts, Snug Harbor Artist Residency Program, SOMArts, and is now an exhibiting member of the Recession Art community.
At our store, we are currently displaying several of Mitsuko Brooks’ collages, text paintings, and prints. When creating her collages or paintings, Brooks typically works on reused surfaces, specifically hard, discarded book-covers. Using small fragments of photos and printed ephemera, along with vintage, typewriter lettering, the works that Brooks creates are tactile and complex. Her interest in the 20th century ‘mail-art’ movement, as made famous by Ray Johnson, give her collages a functional aesthetic where the artist is not only composing an image, but creating a pastiche of symbols, and relationships between objects and images. Our associate director Christian Fuller has described her work as “in the style and practice of bricolage.”
Mitsuko Brooks claims that she is “drawn towards things that are unlovable,” and in reviving these neglected objects as well as her own personal thoughts, she has given “life back to something dead.” This interest in life-cycles is consistant throughout much of her work, which includes sculpture and photography. Her text paintings represent a thought process of feeling frantically confronted by mortality, as expressed through phrasing which may resemble internet user-comments, all regarding love and relationships. Brooks’ choice of material and her expertise in selection, reflect a classical struggle, a snapshot of the human condition, and do so in a way that is attractive while also being morbidly compulsive.
Brooks’ collage, “Emotional Regurgitation,” which is on display at our store, contains several signature attributes of the artists work. It feels like some kind of humorously dark postcard sent by Brooks from an imaginative world where animal skulls, poisonous snakes and the living writings of Kierkegaard might come springing from a piece of bedroom furniture. Her subliminal referencing of the home, which also appears in her c-print “Shack-les in the Heart,” exemplifies a mood, which can best be described as uncanny- an unrecognizable sensation, understood in contrast to homely feelings.
The tacit familiarity with handling books may suggest to a viewer that these works are intimate. Upon further inspection, one will notice that both sides of her collages offer visual information which ultimately culminate in a completed artwork, and therefore require a certain level of viewer participation. Also upon further inspection, the viewer may begin to understand the emotional function that these pieces play for their creator. Beautiful, and haunting echoes of psychological microanalyses that are gesturally dispelled, sometimes literally ”sent-off” via snail-mail.
To understand a bit more about Mitsuko and her artwork, here are some words from the artist herself…
“Anthony Tino: In reference to “Emotional Regurgitation,” would you consider the ideas of growth, or death to be some of the more important themes in your work?
Mitsuko Brooks: This collage is about an accumulation of all that is grotesque. I wanted to sum up the overpowering emotions I was having at the time that made me feel like I was going to explode. The piece is very much a metaphor for the desire to purge emotions. I wanted to make a piece to release my desire to “get rid” of something inside of me that I hate. I believe in the visualization of the grotesque, and through that one can arise from it all and reach a level of emotional growth.
AT: Are the writings in your text paintings also ‘found?’
MB: My text paintings are derived from my own words, usually contemplations on a secondary layer hidden beneath intimacy: anger. I also do use words taken from searching through user comments from random websites discussing relationships (boundary issues, control issues, etc.) The text painting I have at Recession Art is written by me.
AT: Do you think that you would be interested in book-binding or going through the process of making your own book, or do you feel a special connection to those which are discarded?
MB: I was first introduced to some minimal book binding basics through working with artists Ginger Brooks-Takahashi & Courtney Dailey and their projet Bookmobile-Mobilivre. During my undergraduate studies at Cooper Union, I learned book binding techniques from hand sewn signatures to Japanese book binding. While there, I had begun to made books from discarded book covers and pages, in a way, to bring life back to something dead. I am very drawn towards things that are unlovable: things we have no need for anymore. I still collect discarded book covers and small pieces of trash on the street- and create collages with them. I am instinctively drawn to hoard and use these fragments.
AT: Your sculptures are all in reference to the human body? What relationship do ‘bodies’ have with your interests as an artist?
MB: I am very consumed, literally and abstractly by the body, so yes, you could say all my work relates to it. Some maybe are less related, like the text paintings. I am always drawn back to referring to the body, specifically the female body, due to being trapped in mine which was marred by chronic health issues my whole life. I’m interested in the body used as a point of reference, and all the hidden mysteries of it (abuse memories hidden in places of the body which can be released years later, etc.) There is this really great, potent song by the Raincoats called The Body that captures my sentiment…(listen to it)
AT: How did you begin making art, and what inspired you to do so?
MB: I was raised by a latent painter/healer/mother and latent poet/photographer/father so they just naturally supported their children as artists, musicians, and critical thinkers. There was always paint, cray-pas and pencils around our house to make things, which my siblings and I were all using before we could talk. One of my favorite earliest creations is a drawing illustrating me losing my teeth at the bathroom sink with the blood coming out of my mouth. I think my making art just became a natural way for me to communicate and interact with the world.”
To see more of Mitsuko Brooks’ work visit her website, or see it in person at Recession Art’s new location at 47 Bergen St, Brooklyn New York. Be among the first to see these works in our space at our Grand Re-Opening party tomorrow night, featuring works by Danny Ghitis.
All images are copyright and courtesy of Mitsuko Brooks and Recession Art.