6 min read

meet breanna charles

learn from this moving and vibrant artist as we celebrate pride together!
meet breanna charles

getting to know breanna charles is truly a gift. throughout our conversation, the nyc-based visual artist spoke about how their experience of self-discovery, navigating the complexities of identity, has deeply influenced their work; which often highlights marginalized communities through a pop culture lens. their personal journey and passion for creating meaningful art has given them the ability to carve out a unique and authentic creative space that continues to inspire and provoke thought. 

how did your artist journey begin?

i’m originally from the washington dc area and now nyc or the correct version “the city.” my journey in the beginning was about discovery, i needed to find my voice. i was always a creative person, but never understood where i belonged as an artist. when you are a trans non-binary person of color, finding that space can be very difficult. 

now i’m more into growing into my own personal artistic safe space, not anyone else’s. i felt that if i was more focused on trying to get into these spaces, then i wasn’t being true to myself. i love where i am right now in my art, i love my balance of graphics and pop culture. and i will only grow from here.

did you grow up around artists or creative people?

omg! i grew up in one of the best times in art — the 90’s. i went to art classes, school trips to museums! we also had this great art factory called the torpedo factory in alexandria, where you could meet local and international artists. what i loved about that time was the community. the community wasn’t designed to focus on one main artist, it was designed for artists to showcase each other. i would sneak off to art hubs every weekend (they still have them now) to see what the new style was.

what was a core moment that propelled you forward in your career?

my voice residency, that was my turning point, and where i discovered digital art. before that i was only a web and graphic designer, and a friend at the time encouraged me to start focusing on art. i was just getting back into art, and at the same time it was the beginning of my transition (yeah it was an interesting moment). it taught me a lot, and it shaped me into understanding a new art community and where and what i was going to be in this new space. voice will always be where my story begins.

"digital beauty" by @thestudio

what drives and inspires you to make art?

i thought living in nyc was going to inspire me, but it didn’t. what inspires me is an interesting mix that has always been with me, i just denied it. i create from a place of pain, fashion, memories, and/or social issues. i have always been told i have a poker face when it comes to my own personal problems and that inspires the layers of my piece, pop, or cultural references without the viewer even noticing what they are truly looking at. btw nyc does inspire me, in a sneakerhead type of way!

how would you describe your style?

my style is called thomasine, after thomasine hall, an english intersex servant in virginia during the 1600’s. i choose that name because of the way my approach towards art is developed. just like thomasine or “thomas”. my art can be either strong or light, and always up for a debate that can’t be put into one style. please read more about them, and you will at the core understand my approach and how my style fits in this crazy art world.

what are some themes or messages do you like to share through your work? 

i will always have a soft spot for marginalized groups, and women’s rights. when i create a piece, i want you to know that it is different, just like the rights of marginalized groups. my current works are based on what pop culture has given us, but how it taught marginalized groups that they weren’t good enough.

what do you hope people see or feel through your work?

excitement! with a huge question mark. because sometimes that is exactly what i feel after i create a piece, even though i know why i created it.

do you find community through your art? who / what makes you feel most supported in your work. 

that is still up for debate for me. sometimes i do, and sometimes i feel like i must be my own community. i need to be honest with myself, being a trans non-binary person of color doesn’t get you into a lot of communities. the communities i am in, i tend to stay with. what makes me feel supported are “true” artists who acknowledge me — without them i would have given up a long time ago. what i mean by “true” artist, is the artist that understands that art is created to inspire, not by who you are. 

i will create something and show it and will hear crickets from my normal community members or i may not hear anything from anyone new, but then i’ll get a like and follow from curators and directors of some of the world’s oldest galleries (my instagram followers don’t lie). that makes me feel supported!

what is your favorite piece of art? why?

le barricade by constant nieuwenhuys. the cobra movement is a style that i can sit and look for hours and every time i see something different. this piece delivered such a dark fantasy that was a snub to western art styles, with the size of the piece alone. anytime someone breaks through the standards of art in such an impactful way it impresses me.

many artists experience periods of creative block or self-doubt. how do you overcome these challenges and reignite your creativity?

it happens to me a lot, it’s happening right now. i used to get upset when that happens and i would create things i wouldn’t even want to look at later. what i do is go back to things that i love about design and art — right now it’s the designers claude montana and gianfranco ferre. watching the things that influenced me when i was younger reignites something new or even something that i forgot about. 

how did you find primitives?

i found primitives on instagram, when i was at the beginning of taking a break middle part of last year. i loved the platform because it’s a community that allows you to showcase your art and allow it to be seen, i made a promise that i would start there when i decided to come back to creating. it isn’t my first web3 space, that would be my voice nft residency and others 2 years ago. i like it much better now, because i am more secure about it then i was when i first got into it. the web3 space is constantly growing, and i love that. it allows me to have my space and decide where i want to put it. before it was about trying to be accepted, but that is also why i stepped away. now i’m full on just creating and developing things in my space and sharing it with other spaces. i’m still trying to build the one thing that i still don’t see a lot of free trans non-binary spaces. i must be honest a lot of trans non-binary artist can’t afford to be in these spaces.