Words and Art by Wayne Brezinka

Many hours of my childhood were spent daydreaming and creating imaginary worlds. Loneliness was a frequent companion in my early years, often filling me with a sense that I didn’t fit in. I was creative and curious and found interest in things that many other children in my small town of 400 didn’t find interesting at all. As a 7-year-old, I found greater comfort sitting in the back of the room looking in on my classes from a safe distance than I did engaging with my peers and classmates. I watched, and I observed.

Feeling safe, although I may not have known how to express it at the time, was my number-one goal. Drawing, creating, and watching my favorite television series—The Muppet Show—were the skills I honed to cope with my loneliness.

I recall fond memories of my grandmother. She was my safe place. She had 20 children    of her own and 92 grandchildren, yet she knew every one of those kids by name—including me.  

One Christmas Eve, she welcomed my family into her home to celebrate and said that she had something for me. Smiling, she pulled out a handmade drawing tablet strung together with yarn, and a box of crayons. I was thrilled! She knew me; she saw me. Even at that young age, my interest in art was evident to her. At 7, I would never have imagined that I would be creating art full time and making a living at it—yet 42 years later, here I am.

SUPERMAN, Wayne Brezinka self-portrait, age 7, Nashville, Tennessee, 2018, Mixed media, 36” x 36”

Looking around my studio at the various commissioned and personal works that I’ve created over the years, I realize how I have gravitated toward portraiture with my art. This was never a particular goal of mine, and it leads me to ask myself why.  

Each of the fragments in my work is a representation of what has built us, what sustains us, and what will shape us as we walk into tomorrow. They make us who we are. We are many things: well-made, cumbersome, awkward, elegant. We are complicated. We are human. What moves us to be curious about one another? Is it behavior? An individual’s way of being, their personality or appearance? Life is indeed discovered in the small things, in moments of our day-to-day lives, and perhaps those small things, brought together, add up to become who a person is.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

—Vincent Van Gogh

A variety of emotions can be read on the facial plane, and one could argue that there is not a single face exactly the same as another. We are built by stories and experiences, large and small, and constructed by relationships we have had across our lifespan. Fragments of encounters with acquaintances and strangers, those we call friends and those we call family, all contribute to the facial-expressions landscape. Reflecting on this, I recognize that my fascination with creating portraits and exploring the human face and personhood continues to grow and unfold. The small pieces of cardboard, cut paper, rope, paint, and glue are but a few of the materials I now use to represent those life moments.

My multi-dimensional portraits make explicit reference to their subjects through the use of cut-and-pasted printed paper and repurposed materials arranged together into a vivid likeness of the subject. The aim of expression is always the same: to eloquently encapsulate the life of my subject through a multitude of textures and colors, crafting and revealing extraordinary storylines.

This is a conceptual portrait of myself at the age of 7. I remember my father calling me Superman when I was a child. The nickname does not hold any positive or negative weight; it is merely a memory. I began to wonder what that idea might look like worked into a portrait. As a child, I had red hair, a face full of freckles, and a ruddy complexion. At 49, that complexion remains, and I’ve learned to embrace it. The freckles have faded, and my hair has lost its ginger color. Actually, my head has lost most of its hair altogether. I am amazed at how many physical, emotional, and spiritual versions of myself there have been over the years, leading me to find truth in the conventional expression, “That was another lifetime ago.” 

Collection of the artist. To see how it was made, visit www.WayneBrezinka.com

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