By Emily Tanner
Art by Brooks Haddaway.
“I didn’t think I was going to go down this road at all, this is not what I thought I would be going to school to do,” explains Brooks Haddaway, a Western Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) student, sitting amidst his show “Cosmic Euphoria” in Quigley Gallery.
Prior to attending Western, Haddaway was strictly a photographer before delving into 3D work and utilizing Adobe Illustrator to experiment with graphic design. In Denver, he studied post-production, but found himself unhappy with the lack of artistry involved. So Haddaway transferred to Western and decided to combine his graphic design into photography for composite work.
“I started by taking photographs,” Haddaway recalls, “My photography got to a point where I was running into limitations with the equipment that I had, along with what I was able to do with what I had around me. I kind of got bored of taking photos that were real and started looking into how photographs can be altered in some way to be surreal.”
His previous experiences with CGI and concept art became strong influences on the gallery show. “I was a film student, which was a big inspiration for a lot of this. I was really infatuated with how different realities can be made.”
Straying from the normal styles of art taught here, Haddaway follows his own creation process: “While we’re in art school, we’re all kind of taught how to make art off a very philosophical process that has different steps… [Teachers] tell you that you need to completely figure out what you’re doing before you start making the piece. I don’t really work that way, a lot of pieces are discovered in the process.”
“My work, with the medium I choose has a lot more flexibility with that because painters can’t press ‘Control Z’ and go back a step… It’s made me a happier person to know that I have full control of what I’m doing and can’t really mess up,” states Haddaway.
In creating the show, Haddaway found himself teetering between photography and surrealism, but three instructors stood out in helping him. Professors Chase Hutchison and Myela Cardenas were the initial driving forces: “Both of them kind of collaged into helping me do this, Chase with the Photoshop aspect and Myela with the graphic design aspect.”
But it was Professor Tina Butterfield that pushed him to perfection, “At first, I was really just making the pieces because I felt like it, and she really pushed me to think more critically about my process and the philosophy behind the pieces.”
In the process of putting together “Cosmic Euphoria,” Haddaway self-taught Photoshop through YouTube and printed his works in-house at Western. He then snapped and physically stretched all the frames by hand, stapling them together. “The process was almost as painful as making the art itself—maybe even more.”
However, the final outcome was well worth the effort, and Haddaway was both relieved and proud to see his work hanging in the gallery. Because he aimed to break the bounds of reality in his show, the centerpiece, “Major Tommy,” is broken into multiple canvases.
Haddaway wanted the forest to be a recognizable background, then added in the shuttle, the space boy, and eventually the moon. “I choose things depending on what is missing, which is not really how we’re taught to make these.”
“With the lighthouse piece, [“Fame & Reminition”], there wasn’t anything on the foreground at first.” After noticing the light beam shining onto an empty rock, Haddaway thought, “Why not just put a grave?” and the art worked itself out. “I was expressing myself and feeling a wonder of the unknown within what we do know.”
“A lot of artists here are looking to go into the gallery business and sell their art full time… that’s not really my ambition,” he adds. Instead, Haddaway wants to get back into the film industry and continue with graphic design work. “It was interesting to see what it’s like putting up a show in a gallery. You really get to see if it’s what you want to do, [and] it really is a great honor to have all of these pieces hanging in a gallery.”
On a final note, Brooks Haddaway wants his audience to form meaning within the works: “I want people to be comfortable with struggling to adapt to societal norms… I just want people to be comfortable in their own skin. As long as you find stuff you enjoy, just stick with it. Try not to adapt to things you don’t enjoy.”