Great Meadows Foundation uplifts Queer artists alongside Queer Kentucky: Brennen Cabrera

Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Anya Lee

Visual artists are a vital part of Kentucky’s Queer community. Thanks to the Great Meadows Foundation, which was launched in 2016 by contemporary art collector and  philanthropist Al Shands (1928-2021) in order to critically strengthen and support visual  art in Kentucky, Queer Kentucky will be featuring interviews with a number of these  artists.

Brennen Cabrera is a grunge LGBTQ+ artist, who’s explorations of the sexual and macabre reflect an innermost turmoil and desperation to convey emotion and dialogue through a reflection of human desire and flesh: he is a Sagittarius, denoted as being one of the more sexual, empassioned signs aligned with fire, and the subversive nature of his birth timing is reflected in his subversive works. For this feature, we will explore both artist and his current work.

Diagnosed with Autism at age 3, Brennen began using artistic mediums and sketch drawing to express himself, utilizing art therapy techniques to express the inexpressible, a communication tool as well as emotional outlet that aided and enriched his navigation of socialization. Progressing with drawing for some time, his experience with painting came later and at a cost — being born into a religious family, he spent most of his time in the Church they attended and it’s variety of programs, painting with an elder in the church and stopping after they passed. It wasn’t until the death of another woman’s mother that Brennen resumed, being gifted with a grim hand-me-down he would use to greater explore other mediums with.

Perhaps, because his desire to paint was brought forth by the death of someone, the subject matter of his work is so personal and sensitive, not only to himself, but others: it is humanism he embraces. Frequently, Brennen painted to express both empathy and dissatisfaction with the world, but also the things he enjoys: aptly, sex and amorphous design. Because of his difficulty with interacting with people or social behaviors, he finds that painting and drawing allows him to convey and understand personal stories and interactions on a level that speech cannot. The innermost desires expressed on canvas were always dear to him, because it was the method of which he understood at a greater level. While speech was quick to dissolve and float with the wind, art was stalwart. Art withstood time, and remained in place long enough to be digestible, long enough to sit and experience and pick apart.

With his own work, he explores human bodies, desire, intimacy and sex. Things that, for some, especially the neurodivergent, could not be felt easily. The things that could not be navigated by himself are replicated in his works, precious moments of connectivity and sentiment, carnal pleasure and “red” feelings and thoughts. To allude to meat, to allude to consumption, to allude to the flesh consumed in eating and the flesh embraced in sex. 

“So You Sacrificed Sleep Tonight”, 2022
Acrylic, Pigment, Gouache, Charcoal, and Raw Canvas on Wood Board

This energy is emphasized in a personal statement regarding his art:
“Treat your artistic practice like your hot mess partner. They’re beautiful, you love them and they’re also scary. And you really want to fuck them, constantly.” He believes that every artist needs to learn to “fuck” their art to understand their practice. To explore it not just in function, but sensation. Focusing on the aspects of human connection allows him to create something intimate and surreal. The body, he believes, is apart of knowing someone. The personal bond created during sex is a thing of beauty that encompasses all of the feelings he may struggle to convey: and thusly, it is a perfect medium.

Often compared to the “art povera” style, Brennen’s work utilizes the grunge and dirty, the objects in which conventional art sees with disdain as imperfect or trash. Rough canvas, found objects, rope, discarded cloth and other urban items are utilized: Brennen himself, a transgressive artist, carries these motifs through his usage of blood colors and the gore-coated anatomical insides made visible so frequent in his mixed media work. To besmirch art and the clean with action painting, streaks of red for blood and chaotic emotion. 

Ruptured Odium (Acrylic, Charcoal, Spray Foam, Paper, and Raw Canvas on Wood Panel, 31” x 20” x 6”, 2021)

To contrast the beauty of sex, he utilizes wounds, gore, and blood in his creations to present an overstimulating visceral aesthetic. Wanting to always open his art to interpretation, he is used to the title of a “dark artist”, or someone who traverses into “horror.” Believing that there’s more to horror than blood and gore, he thinks detaching that notion is how he wants it to be viewed: these aspects are not horrific, but human. Blood colors illict response. It’s internal. With autism, he feels a lot of things internally that no one sees: these pieces, which display the extreme. Conveying this turmoil is important to him, as turmoil is a human experience. “Life is guts. Life is blood.” It says a lot: transgressive elements of self harm (which he does not advocate!!!) are present in his works, he is not afraid of pushing limits of mutilative artwork to create a parallel between the self harm he feels as a neurodivergent forced to exist in a society not structured around him. Forcing those with sensory issues to acclimate and to continue this idea inflicts pain, and by conveying this pain through art, it’s symbolic of the struggles people face: making the internal external.

Branching out into performing arts, he dives into transgressive practices, creating alternative performance art through “Dimitri”, an alternative self influenced by past trauma. This performance art piece utilize nudity, violence, sensuality, trauma and over-stimulatory scenery. Inspired by his own autistic meltowns,, as well as past and current ableist trauma, he created what describes as a “relentless confessional mess”, but not one he was dissapointed by. “You discover more of yourself through performance art and the body — using yourself in your art.” Describing it as action painting, he was inspired by more daring performance artists. Aside from his painting, he wishes to take performance art more seriously, believing more artists should use themselves as their own mediums.

He believes queerness was what set his art free — it allowed him to explore his sexuality, autism, and acceptance. Through his sexuality, he formed himself as an artist. 

“If you have something serious you need to express, express it. Putting out work like I do is personal, it can be hard to do. More artists should address provocative subjects. Those works make us think more about ourselves, and reflect on our surroundings. People can deny intense feelings and their struggles. To put that subject matter out there shows it still exists.”

Documentation Photograph from Come To Church, 2022
Photographed by Bill French

Relics from “Come to Church” (are previous cumulative work) are on display now at Surface Noise, located at 600 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204.“Window Rooms are not Vacant” show pieces are included, but most of the pieces were made new. Climbing deeper into society’s ableism, he dwells on the sensitive natures of emotion and trauma. Additionally, there are glimpses into queer identity and eroticism. Grungy, at times grotesque aesthetics: amorphous geology, and overstimulating methods of confession sure to shock the eyes.

5 1 vote
Article Rating

Related Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll to Top


Stay up to date with Queer Kentucky by subscribing to our newsletter!