2017 "I Exist' ceramic clay and mixed media
Austen Brantley is a highly talented figurative sculptor from (and based out of) Detroit, Michigan. He initially had little to no knowledge of his artistic abilities until he reached his junior year at Berkley High School in 2011. Austen was inspired by his High school ceramics teacher who saw his potential to succeed in things he thought weren't possible; as a result in 2013 after a mere two years of sculpting Austen began receiving local and statewide recognition for his creations and won a gold key with his portfolio in national scholastic's competition. Austen's art has been displayed at Grand Rapids City Hall in Art Prize, the Charles H Wright museum , the Detroit Institute Of Arts in conjunction with the 30 Americans Exhibition, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. he was the winner of the Kresge Gilda Snowden award. He was also chosen for the commission for the highly honored civil rights activist known as Viola Liuzzo in creating A life size monument in her likeness. While Brantley has created and displayed a prolific amount of work, he also made time to travel and learn as much as he can from other cultures and perspectives in art including Italy and Mexico. Brantley seeks to create work that he feels tell a unique story about his perspective on identity. As Brantley is African American being born from Detroit but growing up partially in Germany and also Southfield Michigan, the perspective of a black man or being black is a deep question. He delves into this search for identity in his work titled the Cocoon series as he sculpts black painted sculptures and wraps them in Hydro-stone infused white painted cloth that are composed as isolated figures in states of bondage. he seeks to ask a question of the viewer "what are we? are we black? Or is black only a part of us given by an external ideology?" In creating works with this subject matter Brantley also takes what he has learned from the traditional and contemporary worlds of art that he was inspired by as a teenager. and attempts to answer these questions "what it means to be black in the modern age?" with the pursuit of mastering the fine art of sculpture.
As a 23 year old artist from Detroit, A great desire of mine is to approach my work from the perspective of a young person. When we make art and a statement we are creating it for the future, I try to imagine myself as a young person years into the future seeing a work art that tells a story and how to incorporate a unique narrative that can capture their attention to insure a better future. Through my sculpting I will allow viewers to feel their perspective shift, providing an opportunity to experience a fraction of the emotion that human brutality breeds during tragic incidents that occur more often than not. In pursuit of following that vision my sculptures have been displayed in The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, as well as the Detroit Institute of Arts in conjunction with the 30 Americans exhibit. My work is currently being shown in The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center's annual juried art show, The Art of Soul! in Dayton Ohio, an exhibit focused on the African diaspora, the African American culture, history, and experience. I recently had the honor of immortalizing civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo in bronze, presented at the Viola Liuzzo Playground in Detroit, Michigan. The construction of this project required extensive research consisting of interviewing and creating relationships with her children, taking advantage of my local museums and resources, and the limited photos of my muse to create a product the family felt captured their mother as accurately, respectfully, and meaningfully as possible. By dedicating myself to this opportunity, I am motivated to contribute to the literature of art and tell stories through the visual expression in the form of figurative sculpture including a strong narrative while producing aesthetically pleasing works of art.