Piedmont Park gets even gayer when there’s a festival, and from photographer Michael Bryant’s unique perspective, the Atlanta Arts Festival this weekend is plenty of reason to get there even before Pride in October.
“Come out to the show,” Bryant (top photo) says of the Sept. 17-18 arts festival. “Support the artists that traveled here from all over the country to exhibit their work, and feed your soul with some new art for your home — or office, or car, or groovy sex dungeon, wherever. Find something that moves you.”
Besides all of the extra artsy gays roaming Piedmont on Saturday and Sunday, the festival offers not just free access to hundreds of fine artists like Bryant in the Artists Market, but a full slate of live music, cooking demonstrations and even a chance to get your hands dirty making art of your own.
Bryant, originally from Albany, Ga., started his art career in earnest back in 1993, and his first show was at Atlanta Pride. But even his nearly two decades of perspective on pimping art and the art world in Piedmont Park has nothing on his infectious, intentionally imperfect view of the world through the lens of his plastic toy camera called a Holga (bottom photo).
“I shoot on black and white film, scan the negatives and add color,” Bryant says. “I have architectural images, but my new work has been cloud images with brightly colored skies. The finished piece has a textured finish applied over the top to add to the imperfections of the plastic lens.”
As a preview to what we’ll see in the park this weekend, we asked Bryant about his process, the festival, and how being gay affects his art.
What reactions do you hope to spark with your artwork?
Art is very subjective, and people will find only what they bring with them. I just want to create fascinating, interesting and beautiful images. I hope people will see my subjects as I interpret them, not as they expect them to be. If they can see things differently through exposure to my work, that will be rewarding. That, and I want to see some of my work go to a new home. It is sad to see your children leave, but thrilling and exciting at the same time.
How did you get started, and has your art evolved since it became your fulltime gig?
I began making my living with my artwork in 1996. The Olympics caused a slowdown at the photo studio I worked, and that was just the push I needed to sell art full time and cease the soul-killing job of commercial photography. “Soul killing” at least for me. No emails from world famous commercial photographers, please.
My work changes constantly. I just hope it continues to evolve forward. I am too close to it to judge that. Come out and see it, and see how it is different the next time you see it.
Does being gay affect the process, perspective or content of your work?
I am sure that on some deep level, I appreciate different shapes, forms and aesthetics than I would if I were straight. Certainly it affects everything I am on such a deep level that I can’t see how it could be any other way. I would probably still be back in Albany, Ga., with a house full of children and weekly meetings at the Masonic lodge, living an entirely different life.
What does showing at the Atlanta Arts Festival mean to you?
I am excited about this festival. It feels like a continuation of a long tradition, being the same weekend [second weekend after Labor Day] and location as the old Atlanta Arts Festival that was one of the oldest and best in the country. Atlanta definitely has the type of demographics to support a show like that again.