Brianna Harlan is a multiform artist and organizer. She works in community intervention and re-contextualized objects to innovate on how sociopolitical identity affects health, selfhood, and community. Her current main mediums are community-based art, installation, public intervention, works on paper, and photography. She defines her work as, “a perfectly broken flower pot in the middle of the street, causing a slow down and close look at what is sublime and what is fractured.”
In 2020, she collaborated with 4th Wall to create an AR Monument for Breonna Taylor and had a New York solo exhibition: Black Love Blooms: New York Nook. Black Love Blooms, is a counter-space intervention set on loving Black people as they are. It challenges racial stereotypes and how they affect the daily lives of Black people and the communities that hold them through gentle and soft offerings of free flowers in public spaces.
She looks forward to her solo exhibition at Oklahoma State University “They Gave Us Glass Houses” in January 2022, as well as the workshops she is holding on Community Mapping and Conceptual Art for Political Resistance for the students there. She has been the artist in residence or fellowship at Ox-Bow’s Artist-in-Residence program, Materia Abierta, and the DreamYard Project.
Brianna is also a creative, community organizer and strategist for several community initiatives around the country including City University of New York’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative. She has been published in several forms as a voice in cultural activism nationally and internationally, including in ArtNews for her equity in Kentucky arts report. She just completed her MFA in Art and Social Action at Queens College and was named a Young Distinguished Alumni by her alma mater, Hanover College.
Get to know Brianna Harlan
What role can art and culture play in shaping the future of your neighborhood or the city at large?
Socrates said that the artist wasn’t useful to the republic because we don’t make the functional first thing or its replication. We make the third thing: the commentary. This is dangerous to the republic for the same reason free voice can be dangerous to government or the status quo. Through art, we bring commentary and subversion. We are free thinkers adding possibility to the functional, because we see it differently and we hear the voices around it.
Maybe it isn’t functional for everyone. Maybe it isn’t functional if XYZ consequences are the result. For the radical, community-minded artist, at every opportunity, from sending an email to staging an intervention we are working to dismantle harmful norms through our existence and life path. It is because at some point, someone showed us this power, and we knew the world needed more of it. Art can help shape the city by giving us conduits to reimagine the future.