Brian J. Sullivan is a professional artist residing in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Metalsmithing at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1981 and a Master's Degree of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1988.
Throughout his life he has continued to keep one foot in the world of art while balancing careers in construction and independent contracting. The variety of construction jobs he has held, since his first days working for the City of Milwaukee in the Department of Public Works, has contributed myriad skills, techniques, and style to his sculpture and multi-media collage works.
Property Management is another full-time occupation he has to work his art career around. He has also been known to teach meditation and relaxation processes that incorporate a variety of martial arts related techniques. To Brian, life is a continuous process of obtaining more information and skills. Between the aforementioned jobs and pastimes, he somehow finds time to take one or two college courses each quarter for the sheer joy he derives from the learning process.
Brian purchased his first motorcycle, a green Honda 350CB, against his parents' will, at the age of sixteen. Since then he has owned many different brands, including several Harley Davidson touring bikes.
When he is not creating new art, dealing with problems at one of his properties, working on a construction job, doing homework for a class, showing his work at an art festival, preparing for a gallery or museum show, or out relaxing on the motorcycle, Brian can generally be found scouring the antique malls, flea markets, yard sales, and garbage bins for more materials to use in his art. He is also an avid inline skater and loves to go rock climbing and spelunking when the opportunity arises. Sitting still is one of the few things Brian is not known for doing well, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Brian's modest beginnings show him suffering cold winters on the floor of a bar on the first floor of a turn-of-the-century store front in Chicago that he purchased with the insurance check he received for a vehicle that had been stolen four months after he moved into the city. The romantic notion of having a studio and residence in the same place had bullied it's way into harsh reality. He resided in the bar with no furnishings, no running water, no kitchen, no bedroom, no closets, and no real bathroom. To bathe, he purchased a 35 gallon plastic garbage can and took sponge baths next to the bar sink.
The four-story brick building was in need of everything from tuck-pointing to a new roof and windows. Plaster was cracked and fell in chunks from the walls, which were tainted with the lead-filled, lime green paint of the 30s and 40s. Six pages of building code violations had been issued by the City of Chicago. Only his tenacity and the naivety of a young man with big dreams who had just graduated from art school kept him warm through three winters in this building. He rented the spaces above to fellow artists for use as studios, but he preserved the prime real estate that was the bar for his own personal space. Eventually the harsh conditions, corrupt building inspectors, and cost of upkeep on the building drove him out of Chicago.
During his first year at graduate school, he was accepted for a three-month residency in the Michael Karolyi Memorial Foundation—an international artist colony in the south of France. His reaction: "Wow! Me accepted to an international artist residency program. But wait, I'm in school, I have rental property to care for, I have a large dog, and I know no French!" Despite the drawbacks, he was able to attend.
He was invited to stay to help with the care-taking when his residency ended. He considered it an honor, but he had many responsibilities at home. It was at this time that he learned that his mother was dying of cancer. After that season, the foundation closed its doors for good and when Brian returned to France in 2000 he found a gated residence had replaced the free and open studio housing.
"The summer of 1987 was more educational than any formal art class ever was. I am grateful for the experience. Merci beaucoup," says Brian about the experience.
Brian J. Sullivan has since become a prolific artist. He has created thousands of works. His early work concentrated on sculpture and metalwork. His lusts for vibrant color and uncommon materials united in three-dimensional studies of life and imagination. Though his early methods have been abandoned in favor of work that is more suitable for wall hanging, the echoes of light, robust color, form, and depth (of space and emotion) resonate within the soul of every new piece he creates.
Photo-collaging, varying methods of printing and photo-transference, and the incorporation of found materials into his art are the predominating factors in Brian's current vein of work. Each piece is a rainbow of brilliance and luminosity. Whether the base image is embedded in canvas or into cotton etching paper, the vibrancy of the colors has the ability to lure the viewer in, even from across a crowded room. The luster of the surfaces of his transfers contains a seductive quality that enhances the mysticism of the ambiguous symbolism in the subject matter.
Each collage can be interpreted in any number of ways according to the disposition of the viewer. There are no absolutes—only recognizable factors that have different meanings to different individuals. The beauty of Brian's work is that it does not contain a particular statement about any particular topic; rather, it opens itself to the infinite human possibilities that exist within us all.
His materials reflect a practical simplicity. His arrangements provide complexity and vitality. His choice of subjects implies an everyday mentality that we can all relate to on some level.
Brian does not attempt to woo the savvy art collector with the latest technological advancements. He believes in a hands-on approach that embeds a little piece of his soul into every work produced. That labor of love has become more and more unique in this world of ubiquitous technology. Not only does Brian abstain from the seduction of creating his works in a digitally derived manner, but he also resists the temptation to make his job easier by mass-producing the same image in multiple, identical prints. Each collage is transferred by old fashioned manners using combined methods of heat, screen printing, and photo-transfer techniques that result in lustrous, completely unique products each and every time.
Brian's work has been shown in nearly a hundred galleries and represented in televised specials about the artistic process. He has been the subject of many newsprint articles and has been represented in several museums. Being a creature of autonomy, he has enjoyed sharing his art on the art festival circuit throughout the midwest and southeastern United States over the past two years. He has won numerous awards, and several of his recent works reside in corporate and private collections.
Brian is an everyday man with an immense sense of integrity and the old fashioned values of earning what you get. He is gentle, kind, generous, and devoted to his lifelong passions: art, art, and more art. His weekends are spent gathering materials and arranging them into what will hopefully become that quintessential masterpiece that every artist is striving for. While friends and acquaintances attend races and sporting events, or whittle away their hours in front of the Electronic Babysitter, Brian can be found cutting frames or matte board, or silently slicing away the unwanted material in a potential collage piece. He works best in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of silence. Often fully engaged in the studio at 3:30 or 4:00 am when the rest of the world is snoozing, he is left undisturbed and able to focus every ounce of his mental, physical, and emotional energies to the task at hand.
The end result is always satisfying to some degree. As Brian so precisely stated, "To be a truly great artist, I believe one must be talented in the technical application of the medium, but must also have a strong intuitive sense. One can practice both aspects by simply listening to one's inner voice and creating. Not everything a person makes will be a masterpiece, but something is learned with each application of the process. Nothing is wasted."
In 2008, he married fellow artist Siti Mariah Jackson and they combined studios.
Brian is regularly showing in a variety of venues as well as in an ongoing series of art festivals around the midwest and southeastern United States. Upcoming gallery events can be found on the résumé page of this website. To purchase a work of art seen on this website or at any venue, please contact Brian directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 217-359-4456 and leave your name, phone number, and the title of the piece you are interested in. Commissioned work is possible and subject to the will of the artist. Please contact him with the details of any desired work. We hope you enjoy his work and continue to support The Arts on a regular basis.