JK: We first saw your work at The Cloakroom in East Liberty, where you did a large mural of an astronaut. You also paint elephants, rhinos, etc. Can you talk about why you employ some of the imagery you do?
BB: Yes, so every piece that I do of my staple imagery has a meaning to it for me. For example, the spaceman is called Weight Free, so it has the EKG line. That particular image signifies freedom in that when you are doing something that you love and makes you feel alive, you feel weight free. The Elephant is one of my favorite things to paint because elephants have always fascinated me. The way that elephants have their own communities, that’s just really cool to me.
JK: They are almost human, in that sense.
BB: Yes. They have their own emotions, they have their own traditions, and I like that thought, that there is a society outside of our society… As an artist, I want to have a community and to have my own rules, but at the same time, I can’t play by everyone else’s rules or I wouldn’t be an artist.
JK: What is it about Warhol’s work that you are particularly inspired or influenced by?
BB: It’s not so much about his work, as much as it is about his approach to art. I think it’s his approach that I have drawn the most knowledge from… I try not to be influenced by other artists’ work. I want my work to be my work. It’s no different from when you see a Warhol, a Banksy, or a Dr. Seuss. When you see their imagery, you know it’s them. That goes a long way for an artist. For me, what I take from other artists is their approach.
JK: I read an interview that you did with the Post Gazette, where you were talking about Warhol’s Factory, can you talk about how this space that you have is inspired by that space? Is it similar or different?
BB: Warhol was one of the first artists to do that, anyone that did that after, it’s because he did that. But at the same time, it wasn’t necessarily me getting this space and seeing how much art can I churn out. It was me getting into this space and really asking how free can I be? How can I structure my workday however I want to? It wasn’t about the output for me, from a business standpoint it doesn’t have to be that. Right now I have a demand for my work, and I control my supply.
JK: So Studio Am is now your living space, a creative space, and business space, all in one. And you do brunch here?
BB: So it’s all of those. And at the same time, why not.
JK: It seems very intimate to invite a group of people that you don’t necessarily know to have brunch into what is now your living room. Is that weird for you? Or is that what you want?
BB: That’s what I want… My art brought them here, so they’re coming because they have heard what we do… And if my art brought them here, then they’re not strangers. They know me more than I know them. I don’t see them as strangers… It’s a cool thing for people to walk through the door knowing about my work, and then I just get to talk about my work and be in my element.
BB: I think where most artists struggle is that they never document themselves. It’s not about your portfolio, it’s about your narrative as an artist. When people like an artist, they say "I like their work". They follow them because it’s like reading a book. Each painting is like a page, about how that person was feeling at that particular time.
JK: Can we talk about why you choose Homestead for this studio?
BB: There are many reasons. At the time, it’s just what made sense… Most people never come to Homestead. When they do and this is their experience, it changes their whole perception of this entire area. That’s been the most gratifying thing that we’ve done as a studio is revitalize a community.
JK: Why do you want to make art more accessible to Pittsburghers?
BB: I was told this couldn’t be done here. I wanted to be remembered here because of something that I wanted to do… I just have to do it, and believe that something that has never been done, if it is done well, is remembered.
BB: I have no issues in Pittsburgh, I have some problems that I am currently working to fix. For example, New York, Chicago, LA, have very established art markets. Pittsburgh doesn’t necessarily have that. The people who are going to buy art in Pittsburgh, don’t understand what that entails… The art world comes off as being very pretentious, and that’s not how I think it should be at all. That’s not my philosophy on art. I feel like it should be accessible. I think when you get a piece of art, it should make you feel like more of an individual. That’s why we put the street art out.
People take the approach that they don’t understand art, well you might have never purchased a painting, but look around. You can’t walk through society and not see art… I walk through my day inspired because I see everything as art.
What is a gallery, other than a place where people see your work? Why limit yourself to a building, and not just say “The world is my gallery”.
BB: Sean and I started doing street art, where I would get wood panels from Lowe’s and prime them, and just do paintings on them, and just leave them around the city. And people dig that. I signed them with the eye and then “FREE” so people knew they could take them.
BB: When we got down to Homestead the community just embraced us because that’s how Homestead is. That’s how Pittsburgh is. Pittsburgh does love Pittsburgh, but at the same time that’s rare. There are not a lot of cities like that… Pittsburgh is a really good city for artists if you put in the work.
BB: I have to see myself as the greatest artist that ever lived, and I won’t see myself differently because at the end of the day that’s still my reality. Even if other people don’t see it that way. I get to walk around in this, and work, create, and sell art every day. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks… I think the worst thing artists can do is look and see that other artists are doing. What does that matter? You’re only going to derail your own process, and chase someone else. I don’t ever want to do that.
The hardest thing I deal with every day is truly believing that I am the best, but being humble every day. Those two things are the balancing act. Making art that is my story but unbiased enough for others to put their stories in as well. And I think that’s very important.
Check out more of Baron's work at pop-x