We recently had the opportunity to interview Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA Artist Brandy Stark. Her diorama The Mystery Solved, is a mix of sea, space and LOTS of wire.
Brandy Stark moved to St. Pete, FL in 1992. As an undergraduate, she took a course in sculpture at the University of Tampa where she discovered her wire wrapping abilities. Utilizing welding rods, she made three wrapped wire figures: a triton, a dragon and a centaur. These constituted the first generation of her “Metal Myths” series, established in 1995. A lifelong lover of world mythology, her works often manifest as ancient characters, legends and deities. Tying past to present, Stark sees herself as a Neo-expressionist with the weaving and wrapping process she uses transferring her own energy into the piece. Inspired by the sculptures of Joan Miro, she also utilizes found objects in her pieces. These promote an awareness not only of upcycling, but symbolize that everything and everyone has a place in this world.
Read on to learn more about what the experience of being part of our inaugural exhibit is like for her!
What do you want the public to take away from experiencing the FLORIDARAMA diorama you have created for Fairgrounds St. Pete?
BRANDY STARK: I think what I like about my piece is that it shows a mixture of emotions. I like that there is a mixture of emotions depicted. There is curiosity and excitement and playfulness and mystery that emanate from my figures. And yet, it’s an inferred response as my wire works are primarily abstract. However, my art has always been trying to find the positive energies out there and depicting them through wire, and I think the piece does that. Honestly, I hope that if and when alien life reveals itself to this planet that it is such a friendly encounter and that we are excited to explore the universe with them.
What about being a part of Fairgrounds St. Pete’s inaugural exhibition is most exciting to you?
BS: There are actually a lot of things that are very exciting to me. One is the great excitement that is coming from the project and has been directed through the media. There’s excitement from the public coming back to the project. The more I see of the unveiling of the overall exhibition, the more excited I become. I’ve already had a friend of mine ask if she could be invited for the opening because she’s excited to see it.
This is also one of the first steps for me to try and create a sketch and then make the piece reflected in that sketch into a reality. I’m much more used to simply creating pieces from my mind as they show up. This was a more disciplined effort for me and a learning experience.
What inspired your Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA?
BS: I suspect I’m the only Paranormal investigator artist among the group of FLORIDARAMA artists. As such, I already dabble in things that are a little bit unusual. Granted, my field of expertise is ghosts and the supernatural world, but years ago I did do a talk for the local MUFON [Mutual UFO Network] chapter about how there are parallels between ghosts and aliens. As a religious studies professor, I also teach about New Age movements and the spiritualist and alien movements fit within that category. So I think all of that background is really what inspired me to have the aliens.
I was also thrilled that there was a call for the mermaid element because I am called the mermaid queen. I make hand wrapped wire metal mermaids quite a bit and have sold probably several thousand since 1997. They are the number one fantasy creature that I make and I love them. Mermaids are so fluid yet they do so well in the metal. I tried to make the metal wire reflect that energy and fluidity.
What is the most significant influence in your art practice?
BS: I’ve been an artist in this area showing my work since 1997, but despite having multiple postgraduate degrees, I was never formally trained for the Arts. Metal wire is not always seen as an art, but for years I’ve argued that it absolutely is. Not only is it an art, but it can be a fine art. So, I point to Alexander Calder who made delightful wire sculpture figures as part of his artistic career. I’m also a fan of strong women artists from Artemisia to Frida Kahlo.
Besides Fairgrounds St. Pete, do you have an upcoming project you’d like to share?
BS: I did the mermaid challenge for 2021 and created 31 theme-based mermaids in 30 days. It’s harder than you think with wire sculpture. I am currently planning for some Halloween shows.
My paranormal investigation group, the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg, is going to do the World’s Largest Ghost Hunt featuring The Suntan Arts Center on St. Pete Beach. We are one of a select group of teams worldwide that will be participating in this event featuring historic locations. Thomas Rowe lived in the Don Vista building, which now houses the Suntan, and while his spirit is said to still haunt the hotel, we wonder if he doesn’t pop over to his old haunts at the Arts Center as well.
This event will take place September 25th and will include a paranormal investigation 101 segment along with paranormal investigation demonstrations and a walk-through of the historic building.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
BS: That is a hard one. I try to live a life without regret and that has been an overlying philosophy for many years of my life. I think one thing I would advise myself to have done is to have focused more on the Arts, building my skills earlier and connecting with the local Arts community much earlier than I did. Even though I have been creating here since 1997, I still feel a little bit unknown. I also had to learn a lot of lessons by myself and kind of feel my way along in the Arts. Perhaps having a mentor would have helped me tremendously. I could be much further in my art career than I currently am.
I’ve also been told by others to let the naysayers go. To do what I’m doing because I love it and because they love it; that each character is unique and comes with its own story. That I’m able to capture the dichotomy of opposites into a singular piece…to take a focus on that.
What is your favorite FL destination or landmark?
BS: Oh that’s another hard one. As a paranormal investigator, my favorite places are pretty much all the ones that are haunted. I love old time Florida, like the May-Stringer house in Brooksville, the ArtLofts (which houses my studio here in St. Petersburg) and what used to be Rutland’s department store. I’ve always found Cassadaga to be a remarkably quaint old Florida town. I like the quaint and quirky parts of Florida.