American visual artist Fritzie Brown after her return to New York about her impressions of the opening of her exhibition (No) Temporarily at Josip Račić Gallery

NMMU: Did you get the chance to meet some of the Croatian artists you collaborated with through your work at Artslink at the opening of your exhibition at the Josip Račić Gallery ?

FRITZIE BROWN: I am back now in NYC and have had a bit of time to reflect on the experience: it was a magnificent reunion with so many old faces from the past - a very emotional moment and one I will treasure for the rest of my life. It felt like dozens of faces from the past appeared - really wonderful to see, for instance, Jelena Peric, Renata Poljak, Vlasta Delimar and Branka Cvejticinan, to name only a few. It was great to meet new people as well.

NMMU: Can you tell us something about your recent artworks executed in traditional visual disciplines such as watercolour, gouache, mixed media, collage on paper and canvas, together with a series of coloured figures executed in glazed stoneware currently presented at the Josip Račić Gallery? Your interest in working with art installation and multimedia has since shifted towards fundamental visual techniques. What led you to return to more classical art techniques of expression?

FRITZIE BROWN: My early work was very much more conceptual and dealt with feminist and political issues of concern to me. While I do think, probably too much, about politics today, the work in the show is a big departure for me. I feel it came about because of the curator's request that I stick to traditional disciplines mandated by modernism: painting or sculpture. As it happens and because of my age and decreased mobility, this turned out to be a perfect way to move beyond early personal trauma and troubling political issues and simply enjoy myself. As the child of artists and someone with some facility as a maker it was a joy to have fun with color and humor. I will always be thankful to Branko Franceschi for this encouragement and late life opportunity. Some would say this is frivolous use of time, but I feel that delight must be taken when available. Once again, our time here is short.

NMMU: How did it feel to be in Zagreb after twenty years, and how much has it changed from the way you remember it?

FRITZIE BROWN: I have visited your country many times since my first visit in 1998. Change happens gradually, and it has. When I first was there (I nearly wrote "here" as I feel so connected) the trauma of the war was tangible in that it occupied conversations always. Tempers were higher - things now seem more relaxed socially. The shopping mall in the Flower Square was a movie theatre and it seemed like absolutely everyone was smoking cigarettes all the time. Also the charming old-school advertising that stood above the buildings in Ban Jelic Square has been replaced with contemporary stuff - which is sad to me somehow. I'm nostalgic. Younger Croatians I have met have a very different attitude about their position in the world; Europe is open to them yet they are not anxious to leave. In the past I feel that people were more interested in leaving for the US or elsewhere. People seem to have more opportunities and agency.

NMMU: What effect does nature have on your creativity and how important is your connection with it in general?

FRITZIE BROWN: I am fortunate to have a small house in the forest about 2 hours north of the city near the Hudson River. My husband and I spend a lot of time watching the trees dance. This access to nature is important to me and to my art making as the pace and ethos here in the city as well as the lack of a studio make working in the city an effort.

NMMU: Apart from the Steve Cosson's concept (ink work Bang Bang Studios) does tattoo Temporary on your right hand has any other inner meaning?

FRITZIE BROWN: The tattoo is a personal reminder to myself that each moment is precious and that when opportunities for kindness and generosity arise, they should be pursued. None of us are going to be here forever so, I say to myself when I see that word, "don't waste time." Of course, I'm human and lazy, but I try.

NMMU: Materialism has prevailed in the world, what is the situation with art in that contect?

FRITZIE BROWN: The position of artists, especially here in the US is very tenuous. The art market is run by profit-driven galleries and collectors who harvest a very few young artists upon their graduation from expensive art programs and promote them to stardom. The system leaves behind masses of frustrated talent.

Interviewed by: Lana Šetka © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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