With captivating faces in clay, garbed in intricate constructions of diverse materials, Minneapolis artist Brenna Busse’s mixed media figures are beloved by collectors across the country. Intensely personal, the figures reflect the artist’s continuing experience of her craft and of the larger world, and thus they speak to the viewer in an authentic way. The artist states, “using materials as metaphor, I share my celebration of the beauty of nature, faith in possibility and the sacred quality of daily life.”
The artist describes her process as “mud, rags, sticks and stuffs.” Beginning with “mud,” she forms clay heads, hands and feet, transforming them through fire in the kiln. In response to these individual elements, she then imagines a body, most often made from “rags,” or fabrics, both fine and course. “In the tradition of ‘doll’ that I claim as a powerful icon of my girlhood, I use fabric,” she explains. “Cloth carries familiarity and comfort. Constantly touching us in our daily lives, our clothing is a second skin. My figures with frayed edges, loose threads, tracks of stitches show the trace of making by hand to honor the beautiful imperfection of humanness.”
“Sticks” are also essential to Brenna’s work. “Since I began making figures over 20 years ago, I have always included some aspect of tree,” she says. “Attached to the figure, they are symbols of strength and growth. Sometimes, entire figures are sticks, with fabric, wrapped and knotted, holding them together. It is my praise song to nature.” “Stuffs” are the found materials – bottle caps, buttons, keys that don’t fit – that find their way into her work. Items lost and found, she feels, represent the “stuff of our lives” finding new purpose.
Brenna’s work is familiar to art fair-goers. Since 1989, she has participated in numerous art and fine craft shows including Denver’s Cherry Creek Art Festival, Madison’s Art Fair on the Square and the St. Paul American Craft Council show, regularly winning awards of excellence. As an advocate for the arts, she is a long-time member of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM) and through that organization has been mentored and now serves as a mentor to emerging artists. Brenna has been teaching art classes to children and adults for over a decade and is a member of the committee that produces the Powderhorn Art Fair, held annually in the artist’s Minneapolis neighborhood.