One man's trash is another man's treasure

Brian Belott finds a link to the past in found artifacts

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

New York based artist Brian Belott is well-known for his bizarre artistic style.

Belott’s playful use of collage and found art has been shown in galleries worldwide, including Galleri Loyal in Stockholm and Atelier Cardenas Bellanger in Paris. His most recent exhibit ‘Lost and Found,’ a slideshow of over 2,000 found photos, opens at London’s Community Outreach Gallery Sept. 7.

His love of collecting came from his father, a commercial photographer and former hippie, whose crazy ideas inspired him. Belott acknowledges his most interesting pieces have come from various New York City storage lockers.

“When people come to New York, there’s so little room and space, so people pack away certain items in storage lockers,” Belott says. “There’s been a lot of instances of celebrities who store stuff away and forget about it. The lockers then open up and people end up finding the debris. I would just find chunks of personal data. My father used to take me to junk stores and I just became obsessed with what I could find.”

Belott contends he became interested in found art after listening to a local radio show, “The Audio Kitchen with the Professor,” which played found audio, such as answering machine tapes, records and personal recordings. Belott says he soon “realized [he] could collect the visual equivalent of found sound.

“Going through the photos, certain things started to appear and I tried to scan the ones that hit that archetypal chord. People will use the camera in a certain way, like portraiture, or they’ll misuse the camera accidentally, like pictures of the floor. I have a picture of a million blurry flowers, where a grandma was trying to capture a bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers and she wanted to capture them all so she put the camera way too close. It may seem boring, but it’s abstract and a lot more personal.”

Educated in New York, Belott has tried other mediums, including glasswork, performance, and collage, but says found art is where his passion lies.

“With the found art, I’m not the one creating it, I’m curating it and ordering it, so it’s not me in the work,” Belott says. “It’s of unknown people and there’s something very intense about that. There’s no pretentious artist in the way. This kind of thing warms my heart the most. You’re brought into the very heart of someone you don’t know.”

Found and amateur art is attracting widespread audiences on YouTube and MySpace. A preview of Belott’s ‘Lost and Found’ is available on YouTube, and Belott says these outlets, although mostly intended for entertainment purposes, provide an interesting taste of amateur art.

“Most TV shows have to do with entertainment and how you can trick someone into believing a narrative,” says Belott. “With amateur things on YouTube and found art, you are able to get intimately close with the characters. It’s a search for a new kind of narrative where you’re not perfecting a character, but showing their mistakes and flaws. It gives you a narrative that’s less controlled.”

Over the years, Belott has found some interesting pieces, including a set of tapes of his mother when she was 16, a tape of David Letterman doing jokes at an NBC conference, and recordings of artist Keith Harring.

“One recording I have is of this Southern woman making up a crazy poem for her lover and you hear them talking lovingly to each other and then the tape stops and comes back on and she says, ‘It’s one year later and I still love him.’ It’s not sophisticated, but it’s so touching. The ability to deliver emotion is tremendous.”

“Lost and Found” plays at the Community Outreach Gallery, located at 101 Stanley Street, from Sept. 7-Oct. 5.

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