Robert Berry

"Elysium" (c)2001 by Brandon Bird

Anyone who knows this site knows what a pop culture junkie I am.  And I've had a lot of fun making crazy pictures of Mr. T and other elements of the retro lexicon into insane crayon drawings.  Boy was I blown away when I discovered the work of Brandon Bird, however!  This former fellow Sacramento resident (who currently lives in Santa Cruz, CA), makes some of the most wonderfully delicious masterpieces I've seen in my life.  Whether its Bea Arthur wrestling dinosaurs, or Abe Lincoln beating up George Washington "Fight Club" style, his subject matter is original, jaw-dropping, and funny as hell. 

I had to interview Mr. Bird and find out what makes him tick. 

Why do you think Mr. T works so well as subject matter in artwork?

Mr. T is a sublime paradox: The same man who, as a bouncer, dropped a dude on a fire hydrant, composed a song called "Treat Your Mother Right." His very existence challenges the mind, yet his message touches the heart.

The Carmichael library should still have a copy of his autobiography, The Man With the Gold. Excellent reading!

"Two Warriors Come Out of the Sky" (c)2001 by Brandon Bird

What's your all-time favorite painting you've done?

In the interest of revealing character details, I'm going to say my first oil painting, which was a copy of the head of Goliath from a Caravaggio painting as an exercise for class. Till that point, I'd just worked in acrylics, and all I knew how to do was paint in a pop-arty, color-and-black-lines style. But when I finished the Caravaggio copy, and it actually looked how it was supposed to look, I thought, "Wow, I understand painting; I can paint whatever I want now," and then I started figuring out what exactly it was that I wanted to paint (which would eventually be, "things I like with a strange and/or humorous slant").

I also like the Dukes of Hazzard one, because I love the Dukes of Hazzard.

"Waiting for the Magic Hour" (c)2002 by Brandon Bird

Tell me about your best idea that you've yet to paint.

Well, the one I'll tell you about, which is not the best but no one will want to copy it, is to travel around the country and paint a Sears store from every state. I might actually do it this summer.

"The Dreamer and the Dream" (c)2001 by Brandon Bird

Do you fear reprisals from the Church of Scientology for your L. Ron Hubbard painting?

Um, yes, because I understand they are a rich and letigous cult. But in my defense, the painting doesn't say whether he was saintly or shady; I think the only stance it takes is that he'd probably like pizza.

"Killing Machine" (c)2001 by Brandon Bird

How much would you charge for a nude Bea Arthur?

I'd pay fifty dollars to see a nude Bea Arthur.

How much have some of your paintings sold for?

I haven't put anything that's on the site up for sale yet, mainly because I want to keep the whole body of work together for as long as possible. Which was a fine idea when I had a steady day job, but maybe not so much anymore.

Your work gets such a warm reaction from many fans. How are you received by your peers in the art world?

I don't really know. Within my immediate vacuum of Santa Cruz, I'm The Bomb with a side of All That. At least, when people come up to talk to me, they say nice things and not "You suck!" But I'm still trying to break into the art world proper. I'll (theoretically) be getting some exposure in Juxtapoz art magazine, and a speaking gig in Florida, which is all absolutely great, but that big glamorous one-person show in a trendy-ass gallery hasn't happened yet. My limited experience has been that you send your slides and portfolio out to places and then wait and wait and wait for any kind of response at all and finally realize that if you want something--namely, a show--to happen, you have to go out and do it yourself, meaning either secure your own space or just march up to a gallery owner's face and tooting your own horn, and I would rather work hard slowly building a reputation than have to do the latter.

What are your biggest influences?

Television would be the obvious one. Plus other, less concrete things, like bits of old stories and myths, Ween, Frank Black--things that inspire moods rather than specific images. Artisticly-speaking, I pay attention to everything I'm exposed to, with an eye towards how to put it to use. I want to learn every style, because darn it, art is fun!

What was your favorite toy as a kid?

I was and remain a Rodimus Prime loyalist. I felt he had far superior leadership skills than Optimus, namely a giant spoiler fin and flames painted on his chest.

"Anguish" (c)2003 by Brandon Bird

How did you get the inspiration for "The Anguish"?

My sister's husband had been wanting me to do a Michael Landon painting, and I happened on some articles on the internet about the large squids showing up in Bodega Bay, and it more-or-less clicked together. I feel bad, because I found out the person who took the photos I stole for reference (Alex Kerstitch) died in a diving accident.

The whole squid fascination goes back years and years, to the couple of weeks when my older brother and I thought we were going to be marine biologists when we grew up.

What are some of the paintings you're currently working on, any sneak peeks for retroCRUSH readers?

Nothing that's scan-able yet, but I'm working on a new Edward Norton, a couple of things for the "Law & Order" group show I'm putting together, a whole series in the grand traditions of Classicism on the life of Captain Sisko, and a few stand-alone paintings, such as Christopher Walken building a robot in his garage (to be titled, "Lazy Sunday Afternoon").

You can check out Brandon Bird's amazing work online at his site  You can view many more of his amazing paintings, and even purchase some cool T-Shirts and merchandise featuring the images. 

There's a lot of other great things to find there as well.  In the "Hate Mail" section, you'll love a letter from an angry Thomas Kinkade fan (aren't they all?), who is incensed at Bird's use of the URL to point at his site. 

Bird is also managing an art show dedicated to the many TV incarnations of "Law and Order" to be held on May 26th in Santa Cruz.  If you'd like to submit a piece, you can do so by May 20th.  You can CLICK HERE for details.  I think the time is right for a HOT HOT Jerry Orbach/Sam Watterston man on man action pastel, don't you?



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