Spotlight On! Brianna Graw

Brianna Graw is an Art Practices major who comes from an eccentric background of illustrations and tattoo apprenticeship. With her work revolving around themes of vulnerability, escapism, and understanding concepts of grief, Brianna has found herself pulled towards an interest in community and art accessibility. She hopes to one day explore installation work, performance art, and social practice.


Q: How would you describe your identity?

A: Well, on the surface I’m a cis gender white female. I’m a student, an employee, a friend, a sister, and a daughter. Pretty much from the Pacific Northwest. But beyond that, I am a storyteller, an artist, and a little bit (or a lot) of a trickster. 

O mother

Q: What inspires you to create?

A: It’s what keeps me alive; creating and air. I often feel like an imposter in most roles in my life, but when I create I find myself. In person, I have a very outgoing and friendly personality, but when I started to process grief in my life I  found that there were very little tools for me as a woman to express anger. That’s when I really started to turn to art.

Art gives me the language that my tongue has failed to find. 

a car to print

Q: What does your process look like when you are taking the seed of an idea and turning it into a finished product?

A: It depends on the project. Sometimes it just pours out of me like vomit. There’ no stopping it. But for other projects, I do a lot of research and brainstorming. I know there is a message I want to say and I need to really consider all the steps to do so. Especially for projects that are installations or social practice. It usually happens when I’m really feeling something, like something or someone has struck a chord in my heart. Then I try to vision what that might look like. I’ve never done things in a conventional way so neither is how I express myself. I usually describe my world with a lot of metaphors and story weaving. I want to take the world that is in my head and bring it out into the physical world. Make my metaphors real, I guess. And then I just work like a mad man. I’m usually covered in paint or plaster, or whatever material I’ve been using. 

Body of Vulnerability

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists? Are these artists reflected in your work in any way?

A: There’s a lot of artists I really admire. I started out as a tattoo apprentice so I originally was very influenced by other tattoo artists, and that came through in my old drawings. But now I’m actually much more influenced by people you might not call artists. Angela Davis for example. I often think about her quote, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept.” I’m also influenced by Tim Burton movies and I think you might be able to see some of that in my art. Mythology is another art form that really inspires me. 

Reflection Now

Q: How do you think your art communicates with you? How do you think it communicates with an audience? Is this communication important to the process of your art?

A: I actually have the word Art tattooed on the inside of my ring finger. It’s where I turn when I feel lost. But as for how it communicates with the audience… I guess it depends on the person. They say the death of the artist happens when you give your art to the public. Then it’s up to them how they see it.

But I hope my art creates a pause.

A moment of reflection. I think we are past the time for art to simply be pretty. The purpose of my art is to make the viewer think critically about the world around us. I don’t have the answers and I have no intention of saving the world with my art. I just hope it makes you think, just for a second. If someone sees my art and absolutely hates it, that is still a success because it caused them to think and to feel something. 

Process Body

Q: What is your next project?

A: I usually have a few ideas brewing at a time. In general, I’m hoping to start making more large abstract projects. I’m becoming more and more interested with non-traditional ways of art. I really want to start testing the limits with how big and weird I can get. 

Q: As an artist, how would you define this phase of your life?

A: I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I get to the next phase. But I definitely feel I am in a blooming state. 

Q: What does it mean to you to be vulnerable in your work?

A: It means to let it all out. I’m so sick of living in a world where we have to be “pleasing” for the audience. To be vulnerable in my work means I need to be honest with myself. It’s a constant practice of acceptance. My work is like getting naked and allowing everyone to see my flaws and then to still know that is what makes me beautiful.

To be vulnerable means to be fully present in what it means to be alive.  

When the tears dry

Q: What makes you happy?

A: So many things, I don’t know where to start. I recently just go out of the hospital where I was there for 3 days due to an infection in my internal organs. My community really showed up to support me in such a way that I am still glowing. Sure, I love things like traveling, good food, or when I can stand up on my surfboard, but nothing beats our ability as humans to connect with one another. Community is the most underrated source of happiness.

And Art, obviously.


You can find more of Brianna’s work on her art Instagram @BriannaGraw