It is with the deepest regret that I write of the passing of Helene Brandt.
She will remain my muse; her ability to embrace a capricious world as a never-ending source of inspiration and her appreciation for every part of nature continues to inform my own work. She revered the smallest intricacies of a fallen leaf, or a shard of broken sea glass – it was all, beautiful, all part of life and her joy was infectious.
I recall the first time I entered her studio – there were several dead, dried octopuses strewn on her worktables. She was obsessed with how to incorporate them into other objects so that it made sense – so a metamorphosis that would naturally occur in nature could be realized in her mind and transmitted to the remains of wood and wire and beads and skin in front of her. She was always, transfixed by natural life – that inevitable progression of birth through death – and what most people never bothered to see. She made me see differently. She made me listen differently – to ambient noises of the city, the splash of a sparrow in a puddle and the beating of rain on a tin roof. Everything was charged with its own spirit – its own intent – its own longing. I will miss our conversations about art and life and people and the forces that will never be contained.
— Deborah Johnstone
Adaptations, an exhibition of sculptural hybrids by Helene Brandt, explores the fragility and fierceness of metamorphosis. Sculptor Helene Brandt uses discarded, found, and organic objects, to create a symbiotic universe in the throes of change. Steel, wood, roots, wire, leaves, paint, varnish, and vegetation, all meld and focus our attention on the revelatory characteristics of each object. Indeed, they appear to come to life before our eyes. There is an acute sense that each sculpture could move at any instant and exchange parts with the next to create a new entity. In Brandt’s work, a new truth becomes visible and we are allowed to create our own narrative. Even curious, suspicious, elements are treated with reverence and allowed to participate in the process. It is this willingness to abandon the familiar that is at the core of her work.
Together, the community dwells in a contradictory state of permanence and instability – change is imminent. It is in this place of tumult where we perceive an emotional resonance that both confounds us and begs our scrutiny. Each sculpture engages in a sly hybridization that reveals anthropomorphic elements – attributes – that when considered in tandem, invite comparisons.
Introverts and extroverts, young and old, and the unruly and the obedient, all coincide. Twister, perched on limbs of welded steel, wood, and vines, watches furtively – ready to scramble should it sense peril. Crane, fashioned from steel and lambs ear leaves, watches over the proceedings with a sense of bemusement – he thinks he may be a bird but can’t be certain. Will he fly? Should he? Delicate Melazana is exuberant – she has just discovered that the unruly wires from her top can be used as a conduit to gather important information.
The tension between clinging to the familiar and fearing the unknown facilitates constant movement. This adaptive universe is always “in progress” and like all good symbiotic relationships, the members depend on each other for survival and reinvention. Each change, no matter how divergent or incomprehensible, somehow contributes to the whole and the metamorphosis continues.
— Deborah Johnstone