In the months and weeks leading up to her exhibition with Labor is a Medium, Breanne drove cross-country,
from Arkansas to Fairfield, California. On route, she stopped in Roswell, New Mexico (as one does)—in a recent
conversation we joked about alien abduction and the desire to be taken away, to be whisked into the unknown. On
her drive, she began composing small missives as personal ads to the otherworldly, and—once in Fairfield—running
them in the classified section of Daily Republic, Solano County's primary newspaper. A new ad is appearing in the
newspaper each week, through February, 2022. The first one, published January 12, 2022, features an image of
interlocked hearts and reads "The void is an endless source of love."
The personal ads are a one-sided appeal: someone or something seeking connection across the universe. Like much of her work, they are startlingly simple and earnest, but also funny: the mundane made absurd and somehow precious. Published in a local newspaper, with no contextual information, the work is a glitch or interruption in the expected information flow, and is something of a futile gesture. But then, the same could be said of the golden record attached to Voyager, hurtling across space, or about nearly any effort to reach out and connect with someone other than oneself—but we do it, again and again, because we hope.
In 2018 Breanne Trammell, in collaboration with Mary Banas, exhibited Symbols of America,
an installation of work included in the Cincinnati, Ohio iteration of For Freedoms: Art as
Political Resistance. Included in that installation was an oversize blue t-shirt emblazoned with
"EXTREMELY LOCAL" in blocky yellow text, hung like a flag from a wall-mounted orange rod—a riff on
the "Don't Hassle Me I'm Local" tee worn by Bill Murray's character, Bob Wiley, in the 1991 film What About Bob?.
"Extremely local" is something of a mantra for Breanne. It pops up in her work and social media, it's her Linktree handle, it's the title of her podcast (which so far consists of one episode, recorded in 2019 with artist Rebecca Morgan sitting in Rebecca's Subaru). When I spoke with her recently, Breanne said one of her goals for the spring, which she's spending in Fairfield, CA, is to "get extremely local." I didn't ask, but I think that means to be present when and where you are, and with the people who make that place and time home, and to find joy in the small things that make a community unique.
When I first met Breanne, in 2011, she was serving as the resident print studio manager at Wassaic Project—a small artist-run residency in the hamlet of Wassaic, New York. In her studio, among stacks of paper of varying patterns and textures, scattered prints and ephemera, and rolls and tubes hanging from the rafters, was a giant simulacra of a homecoming mum—a Texas high school tradition—woven of varied materials in multiple colors. It hung at a height of roughly ten feet—a large multi-hued sun—its tails and ribbons dragging across the barn floor. Nearby was a leaning stack of oversized bookmarks—island scenes and confetti colors—drooping in the summer humidity. Breanne was adjuncting nearby (in addition to managing the print studio) and was incredibly generous with her time, teaching folks how to expose screens and print, and organizing gatherings for the residents including, if I remember right, a chip-and-dip potluck.
Much of Breanne's work transforms mundane, popular culture iconography or references to small-town life into commentary on class, power, and forms of solidarity or resilience. She regularly submits work to county fairs, and derives color palettes from snack foods: Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Cool Ranch Doritos. She appropriates imagery from television series like The Office, Seinfeld, and Friday Night Lights, and that of sports heroes, national and local, real and fictional, from Colin Kaepernick, to Dennis Rodman, to Tim Riggins. She makes use of the t-shirt as a vehicle of public communication, and print as a vehicle for exchange, for politics, and for community. There's a sense that Breanne's work could be anywhere, could be anything, could be something you've seen over and over again and never known was an artwork.
In the months and weeks leading up to her exhibition with Labor is a Medium, Breanne drove cross-country with Mary Banas, from Arkansas to her hometown of Fairfield, California. They stopped in Roswell, New Mexico (as one does). In conversation we joked about alien abduction and the desire to be taken away, to be whisked into the unknown. On her drive, she began composing small missives as personal ads to the otherworldly. Once Breanne landed in Fairfield, she began running them in the classified section of Daily Republic, Solano County's primary newspaper, with a new ad appearing each week, through February, 2022. The first one, published January 12, features an image of interlocked hearts and reads "The void is an endless source of love."
HVAC Boyfriend, or Air Pressure (A Lover's Discourse), a work from 2021 folding together references to Bruce Nauman and Roland Barthes, is an open edition .ebup and .pdf file (Breanne also recently performed the text at a Fayetteville comedy open-mic). The work collates texts—in a serif type on a pink background mimicking Nauman's Body Pressure—that Breanne originally posted to Twitter under an anonymous handle, documenting her then-boyfriend's obsession over the air conditioning during the summer of 2015. In this work, Breanne captures and transmutes the mundane exchanges and negotiations that make up a relationship: should we turn the air on?
That exchange comes to represent two bodies in space, being together in a room, too hot, too cold, experiencing life together—but it's also funny, the mundane made absurd and somehow precious. In contrast, the classified ads offer a glimpse of a one-sided appeal: someone or something seeking connection across the universe. Published in a local newspaper, with no contextual information, the work is a glitch or interruption in the expected information flow—a wrinkle in space that might bring a reader joy, or confusion, but also something of a futile gesture. The same could be said of the golden record attached to Voyager, hurtling across space, or about nearly any effort to reach out and connect with someone other than oneself. But we do it, again and again, because we hope.
When Murray's Bob Wiley leaves his cramped Manhattan apartment and tracks Dr. Leo Marvin and his family to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, he does so out of a desperation to find a cure for his many phobias that make life in the city—or anywhere—difficult. But what he finds, however absurd the circumstances may be, is connection to a community, by becoming, in a sense, a temporary local. He befriends the Guttmans, owners of the local coffee shop; he goes sailing with Anna Marvin and her friends; he helps Sigmund overcome his fear of diving. And the crux of what ingratiates Bob to the community—in contrast to the derision with which the locals view Dr. Marvin—is that he participates. He waves to the neighbors. He gets himself entangled in their lives. He gets extremely local.
Artist Bruce Nauman famously proclaimed: "The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths." The artist—or the clown—reveals what was here all along, pulling the shroud off of those things that we see or do everyday, making them visible for the first time. The artist shows us that it's the world that is full of wonder, full of humor and tragedy and joy. The world buoys us—the artist just helps us to see, to do, to be.
Images, from L to R, all by Breanne Trammell:
Extremely Local (our flag) from Symbols of America, with Mary Banas, 2018;
Leap Into A Close Encounter (if you want it), advertisement, 2022;
Don’t Mess with Texas, hand-painted & braided fabric, ribbon, rope, yarn, mylar, 2011;
Postcard from th dg (a void), open edition, 2022;
The void is an endless source of love, advertisement, 2022;
Leap Into the Void, hot-stamped foil, site-specific, very rare, 2015.
Breanne Trammell is an artist, amateur archivist, and nonmusician currently based in Fairfield, CA.
everything is copy.
Breanne writes: "My work evolves out of the daily practice of looking, learning, zoning out, and being present (extremely local) in my environment. It's highly mobile, and I prioritize using lo-fi and common materials like T-shirts, bumper stickers, and classified ads—non-privileged and public sites of potential discourse. I treat everyday life as material for my work, sampling freely and appropriating and conflating canonical moments from art history and media culture with moments of personal importance, inserting and elevating that which is seemingly insignificant or banal. I clown around, poke fun, riff, and bootleg, lovingly teasing at language and form to frame and situate myself in a world I feel wasn't built for me. Feelings, emotions, and political and personal histories are made tangible through publication and occasions for collaboration, joy, and new experiences. Most recently, I did a reading of HVAC Boyfriend, or Air Pressure (A Lover's Discourse) at a comedy open mic night, and my Z flag (for hugs) received a 3rd place ribbon at the 2021 Arkansas State Fair. I've also adopted a highway in Iowa, toured the US performing free manicures, organized a video/book exhibition called Kind of Bluets: 33 Great Moments in Color (Aid) Commentary, read a CV on the radio, and MC'd the Sandwich Summit—a collaborative, social gathering that celebrates our nuanced relationships with food and visual culture—for nearly a decade. My life is punctuated by collaboration and through it the cultivation of friendship, and possibilities, as practice."