My European Adventures in Art

By Morgan Bricca July 31, 2016
This summer I took myself to Europe for three weeks. My intention was an art immersion, old and new, and to return with fresh ideas for my own work. It was liberating to spend day after day following my muse, no set agenda. Here are a couple observations I took home from my travels.

The Street Art Tour

During my time in London I took a guided tour of the street art in Shoreditch, a formerly working class neighborhood that became an epicenter of the street art movement. It’s now a very trendy place to live and work. (Art can do that to a place.) Street art is typically unsanctioned “guerilla art” created with spray paint. The artists paint under creative pseudonyms, sneaking around at odd hours to avoid getting caught. According to the tour guide there is a pecking order of sorts in the street art world, and it is definietly uncool to tag someone elses tag. If you do that, the other street artists will gang up on you and deface your work. Sounds like it can get messy.

Here is my takeaway: I love street art that is well executed, that integrates uniquely with the environment, when it brings an arresting message or some arc of beauty to a neglected urban space. It’s an act of generosity and can become a source of pride in the community, or at least spark conversation. But street art can quickly slide into distracting self promotion. There is lot of grey area, but I think intent and net gain for the community key. If the ostensible purpose is grabbing public space to gain notoriety without leaving a work of art that adds value for the community, it defaces public spaces, and frankly it pisses me off. The street art in Shoreditch covered the spectrum. Here are a few of my highlights from the street art mural tour:

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No discussion or tour of street art is complete without mention of Banksy. He is at the top of the street art world. Banksy is why street art is becoming celebrated and more mainstream. He’s is a singular voice, a solo rogue marketing campaign against the absurdity of war, and the craziness of modern life. His artwork pokes fun at the art establishment, before someone quickly excavates the section of wall he tagged and sells it for half a million dollars at Sotheby’s. I think he is brilliant. We passed by three Banksy murals on the tour, one under plexiglass, and two under boards, the building owners were “protecting” their assets by hiding the public art. There is local controversy around letting a Banksy tag stay but a tag by a different street artist gets painted over because there is no established market value. It certainly add a new dimension to the “What is art?” debate.

The Museum Tour

I set off each day to simply find things that were interesting to me, without a sense of obligation of what I “should” see. In Copenhagen I skipped the museums and spend a lot of time in the bakeries. Often what I thought I would like, I didn’t, and unexpected detours became the highlights. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was too crowded to be enjoyable. I don’t usually favor modern art museums but the near vacant Stedlijk, next door to the Van Gogh museum, was brilliantly curated and presented, I found it all fascinating, I loved discovering the Bernadette Corporation and Avery Singer. And I had the two Van Gogh’s in the collection all to myself. A block from the Stedlijk, at the Moco Museum, I visited the first ever exhibition of Bansky artwork in a museum. I was in heaven. They had Warhol exhibit downstairs; I didn’t even take a peek. I noticed on this trip I can be ruthless about how I spend my time when I don’t have to be polite about what interests me and what doesn’t.

In Stockholm, I happened upon the Nobel museum, and it was a delight. The curation how they shared the stories of Nobel peace prize winners moved me to tears. I left with the question why there is not a Nobel prize for the arts besides literature? Can’t visual arts also make huge contribution to the benefit of humanity? Hmmm. Another Stockholm surprise highlight: The photography museum. In my next life I want to be a photographer. One of the exhibits was by Bryan Adams, the well known singer of love songs in the 80’s and 90’s. Wow. I was in awe of his eye, his talent. Maybe I should start spending more time with my camera…

The Trompe L’Oeil Workshop

For the final lap of my trip I spent a week in Suffolk, near Cambridge, where I took a workshop from trompe l’oeil master Graham Rust. Sort of. As it turns out it was actually taught by his partner while Graham worked on his projects, but it did take place in a studio at his house. One take away for me was that creating high illusion realism takes a lot of time. A single commission might take Mr. Rust years. His most famous work at Ragley Hall: 14 years. He was a year in to his current project with no end in sight. This kind of attention to detail is a feat in itself, but in all honesty is ill suited to my temperament. 15 hours in to the project we were still just refining the lines of our drawings. I realized that I have developed a process opposite to standard art cannon: color comes first and then find the edges. Rather than starting with all the shapes known, my process is carving backwards the shapes out of fields of color, more like a sculptor subtracts from the raw materials.

Here is a few photo highlights from my time (and wanderings) in Suffolk:

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Maybe I’m too young to get stuck in my ways, but attending the workshop made me realize how much I enjoy, start to finish, my own idiosyncratic creation process. And perhaps the biggest takeaway from the entire trip was that the life of art I have built in the Bay Area is my own personal Goldilocks zone. My work style is too loose and unorthodox for classic trompe l’oeil and too natural and traditional for the rattle can street art scene, but for me it is juuuust right. I am so grateful to have built a small niche where I can make the kind of art that I love to make.

Here is the dove sculpture I designed and painted at the workshop, a.k.a my “take it easy” week in the English countryside. It is a Chimney board, a false front for the opening of a fireplace.

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Back Home

I loved my trip, and the best part of travel for me is always coming home, more grateful for my life than when I left. I jumped right back into work, newly inspired and back in my comfort zone on a larger canvas. Here is what I painted in a private home the week after I returned from the trip:

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And from the far side…

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It’s so nice to be back in my “Goldilocks Zone”.

I hope you are enjoying your own summer adventures!

Morgan signature

 

Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca is a mural artist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her clients run the gamut from professional creatives, including architects and designers to building owners, school administrators and community advocates. When she is not making art, Morgan enjoys sipping boba tea with her kids and taking naps on the couch.

WHAT CLIENTS ARE SAYING

Our entire staff enthusiastically appreciates the artistic transformation of our clinic. The kids here for medical services LOVE the murals as well. One of our young patients returned from emergency psychiatric services for a self-harm issue and when she came into our office she had a huge smile upon seeing the mural. It is amazing to all of us how immediately a depressed patient responded to the mural art.

It has been a pleasure to work with you. We love both your work and the positive environment and spirit you have instilled in our kids.  Once again Morgan, thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart.

Warm regards,

Chia-Chen Lee
Juvenile Hall Medical Clinic Pediatrics

Review for Juvenile Hall Mural Project by Chia-Chen Lee

Morgan blew it out of the water.  As a general contractor, I would say my decision to hire Morgan for this mural is one of the best decisions I have made in terms of impact of my work.  Every kid will remember this mural as long as he or she shall live. Watching a child see the mural for the first time is an experience words can’t describe. It’s mesmerizing to them. Adults too, for that matter. It’s a show stopper.  So much better than I could have ever imagined.

I would go out of my very busy way to recommend Ms. Morgan Bricca on every possible level, with no hesitation. Please feel free to call me if you are considering hiring Morgan but can’t quite take the leap. I will be glad to push you in.

Chris Carver
Aquatic Management Group
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mural artist review by Chris Carver

Morgan offers a unique collaborative approach with her clients. On our project, she struck the perfect balance; she listened to our ideas and feedback but very much maintained her role as the creative expert, making us feel comfortable the entire time.

I would absolutely recommend Morgan with no hesitation. With all that she has done, she is going to find the right approach for just about any client.

Jonathan Meyer
VP, Marketing and Community Relations
San Mateo Credit Union

Mural painter review by Jonathan Meyer

We absolutely love our mural! I anticipated that it would add beauty and a much-needed “nature element” onto our campus, I never could have imagined what a huge impact this would have on our school. I have seen countless children, parents, and teachers walk by in awe, totally captivated. Not only does it make our campus a brighter, more beautiful place to learn and play, it reminds our entire community of the tremendous importance of art. This is a gift beyond measure, especially in tech-obsessed silicon valley. Once again, you have exceeded my (already high) expectations!

You are so fun, inspiring and professional to work with and your projects in our kinder yard and now this mural have been my most satisfying collaborations on PTA.

Warmly,

Christy Flahavan
PTA President
Springer Elementary School

Mural Artist Review for Springer Elementary School by Christy Flahavan

The real value and pleasure of working with Morgan was that we connected with her. She was very personable, very sincere, very collaborative, but not one to sit back and let us lead it in a wrong direction. We trusted her completely from the past work she had done for us, and told her, “here is a wall, do something with it – surprise us.” It’s like dealing with a friend.

The murals she has created for us make our home more intimate, warm, and personal. I was surprised at how quickly she worked, how easily it got done, and how watching the process was enlightening. It just flowed; it was like watching a very large masterpiece being created before our very eyes. It was especially interesting when she got into the tonality and the tints. For us, it turned out better than we could have expected. I absolutely recommend her without a doubt.

Mural Painter Review by Sandy Bland

Morgan, the mural you created for our building has been a major attraction for both locals and visitors in Downtown Napa. The transformation of an eye sore, to a work of art, has been nothing short of amazing. I feel a little guilty receiving so many compliments for your work, however that doesn’t stop me from stealing part of your credit. Your attention to detail and sensitivity, bringing the Wappo tribe into the process, unified Napa’s residents with its history. This public recognition of the Wappo Indians is long overdue, reminding us all of a different time in the Napa Valley when nature and people could live harmoniously.

Every day, as I watch children and adults transported to an earlier time in the Napa Valley, I appreciate your ability to be the vehicle for their journey. I hope soon you will return to sprinkle some more fairy dust on another wall, so I can watch your magic talented creations at work.

Thank You,
Michael L Holcomb

Mural Artist Review by Michael L Holcomb

Hi Morgan,

We had an end of the school year party at our house and everyone raved about your mural. I see your name and date, 2012, on it and can’t believe it was 4 years ago.

Just wanted you to know it brings me joy every day.

Warmest,
Josh Weinstock

Mural Artist Review by Josh Weinstock

I have worked with Morgan on five mural projects at our house over the past six years. I love her work and she is a pleasure to work with. Once you see how transformed your space is by the first mural, it is easy to start seeing other rooms that could benefit from a “Morgan”.

Susan Wojicki
CEO, YouTube

Mural Painter Review by Susan Wojicki

Morgan’s work is exquisite. She loves what she does, works extremely fast, and is a true pleasure to work with.

David DaPonte
Architect, HKS

Mural Painter Review by David DaPonte

Without fail, anytime someone comes to our house who hasn’t seen the painting, they comment on it and how much they like it.

Adam King
Director, Intel Corporation

 

Mural Painter Review by Adam King