Artist Interview: Bruna Massadas


Greg Burak

I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Bruna Massadas, who is currently based in Oakland, CA. I began following her work after coming across some pieces from her Telephone series on social media, and instantly was hooked. She works in a variety of media and is currently creating an animated film called Novela.

massadas_sadie-spiesSadie Spies, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: The people in your Telephone series find themselves in a wide variety of familiar yet zany situations. What role does playfulness and humor have in your work?


BM:  I want to find humor in the things I create—mostly because the nature of humor includes authenticity: something funny makes one react physically, with laughter or a smile. I see laughter as this incredible powerful bodily reaction that is the result of a deeper understanding of what’s seen; it’s about understanding something that goes beyond verbal communication. The work needs to at least tickle me in some way. I don’t think everything I make is funny or that others need to think it’s funny, but I think it’s important that everything I make feels authentic to me. Humor is one of the ways that I am able to access authenticity. I am not trying to be funny, but it just happens. It’s where my brain goes.

massadas_camellia-takes-a-selfie-at-the-country-clubCamellia Takes a Selfie at the Country Club, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Your Telephone series can be read as portraits, but break from some typical conventions of portraiture. Do you consider the series to be portraits, narratives, or something else entirely?


BM: The Telephone series developed organically; I never “conceptualize” a work before I make it. The words to describe or understand a piece or a body of work always come afterwards—from observing the work. I make a piece or a few pieces and then I consider what’s taking place. A great example of the way I make art is how I started with the Telephone series. The first drawing I made for that series depicted—obviously—a woman on the phone, but after I was done something odd happened: I could almost hear the woman saying “Hello, dear!” with an English accent. This was a turning point to me. I understood that painting portraits with the aid of a strong narrative—where I am using objects, clothing, and background—could create characters that carry a certain history with them. To answer your question more straightforwardly, I see them as both narratives and portraits but I don’t really care about how they are described too much.

massadas_linda-gets-caught-playing-soliteireLinda Gets Caught Playing Solitaire, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: In your work, the phone is used as both an element of interruption as well as a means of communication. How do you use this contrast to explore the effects that our hyper-connected culture has on our daily lives?

BM: I know that’s a possible way to read my work: that it could be some kind of social commentary on technology; that my pieces are painting versions of the series “Black Mirror.” But, with all honesty, that is not what interests me, so I can’t say much related to that. My personal connection with this body of work is about language; it’s about what happens when you can’t get meaning from what you hear but only what you see. I don’t expect people to read into that. That’s just how the narrative of this work feels most honest. This is not to say that I don’t have a complicated relationship with technology: I am obsessed with Instagram and my crappy Metro PCS phone, and I don’t think this obsession is very healthy. So, maybe I am painting my obsession, too.

massadas_gail-calls-the-officeGail Calls the Office, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: How has working on your upcoming film Novela affected your approach to drawing? Has time, movement, and sound considerations influenced your how you draw?


BM: I think the Novela drawings—the 16 pieces that inspired the film—felt like the first time I was making something that felt truly authentic to me. When I look back, I see that the work I made before had glimpses of authenticity, but felt more like a tool to please others (academia and art opportunities). I think art worth making needs to come from an essential part of oneself and that stuff is hard to figure out. I carry that with me now with other projects.


I am not really sure how film as a medium has influenced my paintings and drawings. This is all new to me and I am still trying to figure out as I make the movie. I can say, though, that making the movie is definitely making me consider sound/dialogue in my works. The Telephone series is all about the sound you can’t hear.  

massadas_laura-asks-for-directionsLaura Asks for Directions, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: How did you arrive at choosing animation as the medium for Novela, and how has collaboration played into this process?


BM: At first I chose to create a frame-by-frame animation mostly because I have these skills: I can draw and I am good with computers. Okay, the answer is not so practical: drawing and painting is the way I experience the world and express myself. The process of making this project is a personal endeavor. Although I will be collaborating with artists that can do better than me in certain areas like sound design and animation, I want to keep the process as close to me as possible. Making an animation allows me to do just that.

massadas_kim-texting-in-the-clubKim Texting in the Club, 2015, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Do you have any studio rituals before you begin working?


BM: My studio is not very glamorous right now: it’s slightly stinky, it’s small, and it has pretty bad lighting. So my #1 rule to myself is: a clean studio! I need to feel comfortable in a space to make art.

massadas_carole-accidentally-touches-a-pop-popCarole Accidentally Touches a Pop-Pop, 2016, oil pastel on paper, 14 X 17 inches

GB: Podcasts VS Music VS Silence– which wins out in the studio?
BM: Silence. My studio is in Oakland and after the Ghost Ship Fire, I need to be aware of my surrounding in my studio building. It is not uncommon for me to think about death while making art; maybe that’s why art needs to feel so honest to me.


You can check out more of Bruna Massada’s work here:

Check out Greg Burak’s interview with us here:

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