Bryce Speed’s Float the Earth: From the Artist’s Perspective


"Remember that there is always someone, somewhere, that is more passionate and working harder than you are right now. Strive to be that person."

These are the humbling words of Bryce Speed, feature artist in BPL’s first art exhibit of 2015. Twenty paintings of a variety of mixed mediums—from an acrylic/oil/fabric to a graphite/acrylic/ gouache /watercolor—make up Speed’s Float the Earth: The Paintings of Bryce Speed. Patrons can view the exhibit at the Central Library’s 4th Floor Gallery until it floats away on February 27.

For me, Night Deluge X (Tornado) was the most striking of Speed’s pieces in the exhibit, the one I couldn't seem to move away from. A 24x32 acrylic/gouache/pencil/gesso on paper, the oppressive dark swirls sent my thoughts immediately back to the tornadoes that devastated Alabama in 2011. But was this just my own interpretation? Bryce Speed kindly (and eloquently) divulged his take on art, his inspirations, and more.

Bethany: What inspired the making of Night Deluge X (Tornado)?

Bryce: I use destructive weather as a metaphor for the unstable and uncontrollable moments of life. The architectural structures represent facade of ourselves that we strive for, while the weather elements are constantly changing and sometimes invading.

: Regarding artistic inspiration, Picasso states, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” What do you think magnetizes you towards architectural influences in your work and the interplay of interior/exterior, as you state in your introduction to the exhibit?

Bryce: I am interested in the capacity of the spaces we live in to be a receptacle for our identities. I am primarily interested in mid-century architecture because this was a time of optimism in architecture. The homes have very clear definitions of purpose, which I don’t necessarily subscribe to. But nonetheless, they are examples of creativity in domestic architecture.

Bethany: Who are your artistic heroes and how have they influenced you?

Bryce: I like artists that merge representation with abstraction. A historical artist that inspires me is Matisse, who also merges inside and outside in his paintings. A contemporary artist that influences me is Toba Kehdoori, who uses imagery of banal interior scenes to convey a sense of open and empty space that seeks contemplation.

Bethany: Picasso also states that art “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” What do you hope viewers gain from observing your artwork? Is it a specific feeling?

Bryce: I hope they view my paintings like they might read a poem. Fragments and moments are strung together in a sense to create a larger meaning that hopefully has universal resonance.

Bethany: How do you know when a piece is finished?

Bryce: I prefer to think of pieces as being resolved rather than finished. Since I am interested in drawing (and consider my work to be hybrids of drawing and painting) this affords me the ability to allow the work to not follow the same rules as traditional painting. Sometimes I actively play with the levels of resolve. I believe a piece is resolved when a sense of balance is achieved.

Bethany: In 2013, you started teaching at the University of Alabama. What have your students taught you as an artist?

Bryce: My students teach me through their attitudes about art. I am constantly amazed at their open-mindedness and their faith in the role of art in society and in what art can be.

Bethany: One of your artistic heroes, Matisse, states that creativity “takes courage.” Naysayers abound, particularly for any creative pursuit. What has art taught you about rejection?

Bryce: Remembering that rejection is extremely subjective. Many times one person is making a decision about your work. For example, one juror may be selecting work for an exhibition. I can’t hang up my career based on what one person feels.

Bethany: Finally, what would you like say to aspiring artists here in Birmingham?

Bryce: Keep working, and work every day. Every time someone has told me I couldn’t do something, I made it a point to prove them wrong.

Prove them wrong he did. Speed's work has been included in numerous exhibitions in several states. In 2006 and 2011, his works were selected for publication in Vols. 64 and 69 of New American Paintings. Bryce's work was featured at the PS122 Gallery in New York City in 2009, and in 2011 his works on paper were exhibited as part of the Nebraska Arts Council's Nebraska Governor's Residence Exhibition Program and at the Museum of Nebraska Art.

A Mississippi native and UA graduate, Speed completed a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center of the Arts in Nebraska City and taught at Omaha Metro Community College, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Central Community College in Columbus, NE.

For more information about this artist, visit Bryce Speed’s website. And don't forget to take a look at past, current, and future art exhibits at the Birmingham Public library here.

Speed encouraged growing artists to keep honing their craft. What better way to do so than learning a new technique or exploring a different medium? Check out these new books in the Arts/Literature/Sports Department to expand your artistic horizons:

Creative image transfer : any artist, any style, any surface : 16 new mixed-media projects using transfer artist paper

Reclaimed textiles : techniques for paper, stitch, plastic and mixed media

Rust and patina style

Pinterest perfect! : creative prompts & pin-worthy projects inspired by the artistic community of Pinterest

Bethany Mitchell
Arts/Literature/Sports Department
Central Library