Birds are Nice
Birds are Nice is our newest network member. Having a BFA in clay sculpture she noticed early in her career that her ideas don’t fit into what the clay allows her to do and that she’s too spontaneous for the log processes involved in working with clay. When BAN started working as an artist under her real name (Diane Arrieta) she focused on socially conscious work (sex offenders, mothers who kill their kids, general atrocities), but being positive and happy person she got too overwhelmed by the subject matter. Feeling the urge to turn to her happy side she changed to Birds are Nice practically overnight. The change allows BAN to explore the things she likes in life, like comic books, street art and mixed media styles with strong graphic imagery.
Intrigued by the sudden change and BAN’s way of finding her voice as an artist we decided to welcome BAN to our network by doing a little interview.
You started working under your real name, but chose a new approach with Birds are Nice. How did this change come about? Was it one instance or was it an ongoing process/annoyance that made you change your approach to a lighter one?
I had been making art as Diane Arrieta for a long time and gone through several phases. Birds are nice is relatively new. It was a fairly abrupt change. It started with the superhero series. I work in an academic environment that is very restrictive/rule oriented, which really clashes with my personality. I was tired of everyone being so serious all the time. The art world also takes itself very serious. I need to focus on the funny! Laughter is good medicine.
What is the biggest difference between your prior work and what you do under your synonym BAN?
My original work was ceramic sculpture. That is what my degree is in. I did a lot of tribal/animal works. I mostly did pit fired clay. My ideas got too big for clay. It takes too long to get a finished clay piece. So I started doing installation art. Then the work got really political and social oriented. I am interested in social deviance. So child abuse, sex offenders, general atrocities were the subject of the work. I do research all day long at work, so I had time to research all these news topics for my work.
After five years of that I got overwhelmed with all the gloom and doom. I just decided to make an abrupt change. Birds are Nice focuses on all the fun stuff in my life. Watching cartoons, drawing, animation, printing. I have developed a graphic style that fits my personality. I look at the work as more of a brand now. My images lend themselves well to merchandising.
You are inspired by the comic book genre, Robert Rauschenberg, and countless urban artists. Were those the same influences as in your former approach?
I have always been a fan of Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Marisol Escobar, and many more, but never allowed my work to go in that direction. I am having fun now experimenting and not thinking so much about everything. It comes more natural now. My main clay influence back in the day was Daisy Youngblood and Beverly Meyeri.
What is it abut those influences that attracts you the most?
I like adding found objects to the work and having things people wouldn’t expect show up in a piece. I feel it makes the work more interactive. People have to figure out what is going on in the work. I like work that makes me feel something. A lot of what I see out there has no emotion.
How did you come up with Lester the bird and what does he symbolize? Is it a mere ‘tagging device’ or is there more to it?
Lester is a long story. He is modeled after my husband, Leslie. A very long story about people thinking Leslie is not a boys name and calling him Lester…so it stuck! The character Lester is a silly little bird that is in the process of being a series of children’s books. Plus he makes great graffiti stickers. He makes me smile (both Lester and Leslie). Everyone seems to want Lester stickers and t-shirts. I have a Lester mural I want to do somewhere.
You work with a broad array of media, most of which are self-taught. Which one do you like working with most and why?
I really like drawing on the computer. The flat graphic sleek colors and lines are very appealing and fit with my work. I am getting into screen-printing lately, but I keep going back to sculpture. 3d work is great, but hard to store in a small house. So I guess my answer is all of them. Whatever fits my idea at the time. My attention span is very short, so I get easily bored. I like to keep doing different things.
What is the idea behind your recent Supergirl series? Are you turning towards a more feminine approach?
The Supergirls was not meant to be a feminist approach, however, my old work was very feminist and I suppose it is hard to keep my opinions out of the work. I just think all women are superheroes. We have to do a lot in one day! For some reason it is easier for me to draw women than men, so I focus on super girls not boys.