Interview by Britt Goh for CROWN NINE
Bianca Kolonusz-Partee is a painter, illustrator, and repurposing artist, born by the Russian River.
When was the last time you cut something out? Think about it for a brief moment. Maybe you were couponing, scrapbooking (for those of us pre-pinterest), or creating a collage of stumbled upon high school gems—a creative rebirth of Elmer’s glue, brace-face portraits, and tactile friction of finger tips against paper.
Bianca takes the scissor and x-acto to a whole new level. She repurposes packaging material—cheap and highly designed—to create an immersive landscape of shipping ports around the United States.
“I have a lot of friends,” she began, “that went from art school to being designers.”
“When I’m out with them we’re all looking at the same things, we’re all interested in the same things…but they’re designing packaging and products.”
What makes her vision so precise is the fact that her raw medium is branding material, material shipped through the same byways that she’s illustrating. These huge tucked away things that influence the health of people close and far from the ports. Far, as in corporate manufacturing of the literal products abroad, within a system that may or may not violate human rights, advertising that appeals to the hurried consumerist sense of need and now, as well as poor quality of ingredients affecting the health of the consumer. Close, and less talked about, the actual people surrounding those ports. She spoke of the port neighborhoods, dwelling on poignant facts like higher respiratory disorders in children.
“When I went to grad school in L.A. it was this mass of mini-malls and Target stores, having a Target store every half mile…[I thought] god they are just taking over, where are all the mom and pop places. It’s like we can only get things in these big, huge stores now.”
Speaking of mom and pop, what did yours do?
“My dad was an artist, pretty much all his life…he hated galleries. We were in Paris once together, when I was still in college, and I really wanted to go to the Louvre and we got there and he said, “I’m not going in.” So, he sat outside and painted and sold someone a picture.”
“[He] would by us reams of paper. Whenever we ran out, it seemed like there was another one. We would make drawings. He would always say, being an artist wasn’t about having some kind of talent, it was about hard work like any other profession…He worked every day, when his car broke down, he just sat there and drew a portrait of the repair man.”
What is your creative process from start to finish?
“When I lived in San Francisco, I started thinking about the ports, they are these uncharted freeways, a pirate land of ships connecting us all over the world. Then when I moved to L.A. I felt like I couldn’t leave it. Forty percent of shipping in this country comes out of the ports in L.A.”
“When I first went to ports, I would go there and draw…and video on the side. I was always really frantic because there was never enough daylight and I didn’t have enough time.” “In L.A. I got this boat to take me all through the port. I don’t know how I did it…I ended up walking into the pilot station and saying, “Look I’m an artist, and I want to go on the water like the ships do. I think I can understand it best that way.”’
Upon her a request, a shocked man named Dave told her to talk to another man named John, and they booked her a morning. That’s where it started.
“I feel like artist are, they are the only pure observers…they are really documenting what’s happening.” “In the videos, I’m able to get the water, the wind, the birds, things that I may not pay attention to while I’m there…It’s more subtle, so you might not notice it.”
Do you ever illustrate sublime environments, besides ports?
“So far I’m sort of terrified at the natural landscape out here… industrial landscapes are much simpler, than if you look at hills and hills of redwood trees. What I've noticed about artists coming out to nature, they end up making these frosty nature-y things. They draw one bird and one tree, that’s not the way it really is.”
That’s not the way it really is, echoed in my head after our short 35-minute Skype interview. How corporations are, how people are, how birds are, how trees are, how artists are, in a loop, until I decided to watch Netflix and eat Special K cereal with Almond Breeze almond milk.
Britt Goh is a documenting artist. A feverish participant in many mediums from music composition and performance to photojournalism, she seeks to get her grubby hands on the core of it, “It” being the rawest discourse and the honest underbelly of the beast.