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Yellow-red, red-yellow, and burn umber too - a brief encounter with the work of fannie brito

Fannie Brito - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fannie Brito   Volverte a ver ( looking forward to seeing you)   2009
yellow representing joy, happiness, red passion, sensuality
pigments and acrylics    36 x 36 inches

If there was such a thing as a lens that could look into the Unconscious, then looking at a Fannie Brito painting would give one a sense of what that might be like. Nebulae of color coalesce in the foreground, sometimes offering inclusions of text, more often than not in Spanish, her native tongue. Tangles of thought and image, bound in color, refer to emotions and act more as suggestions than as hardened ideas.

A three dimensional space vaults, depths are plumbed. The foregrounds of color suggest neural nets, or perhaps vast shapes of space dust roaming intergalactic nothingness. The work always seems to imply or depict the nanoseconds just before or just after creation or destruction.

Noting the strong sense of deep space, I asked Brito, a physician by training with an interest in psychiatry, if she was aware of this, and if so, in what dimension does it exist? (I know, I know, kind of a heavy question, but I wanted to see what she would say).

Alas, she provided no clear answer, perhaps taken aback by it, or not quite understanding. I decide the question has unsettled her, her eyes going blank for a moment, while she sought to shift topics. I chose to move along. As I write here, I wonder if anyone ever asked Marc Chagall to name the dimensions through which his fantastic shapes cavorted? I settle this for myself with an understanding that the work is an ongoing inquiry into the collective unconscious, which always replies with clouds of color and strands of thought.

Hmmm, color. I think of Goethe’s Theory of Colors. This book, written in the 1830s and published in 1840, can be seen as a phenomenological psychology of color. That’s all I’ll say here, but anyone with an interest in art should have at least a look at it. Towards the end, Goethe expounds the deep meanings of the colors.

Fannie Brito - Pasiones Encantrada

Fannie Brito   Pasiones Encantrada (Encountered Passions)   2003
about human emotions — jealousy, lust, greed, passion. etc.
acrylic and pastels   4 x 5 feet

One that sticks in my mind from the various Brito canvases is a gorgeous yellow, one Goethe calls ‘red-yellow’. He says:

# 772…we can very easily augment yellow into red by condensing or darkening it. The color increases in energy, and appears in red-yellow more powerful and splendid.

#773…the red-yellow gives an impression of warmth and gladness, since it represents the hue of the intenser glow of fire, and of the milder radiance of the setting sun.

#774…As pure yellow passes very easily to red-yellow, so the deepening of this last to yellow-red is not to be arrested. The agreeable, cheerful sensation which red-yellow excites increases to an intolerably powerful impression in bright yellow-red.

When I spoke with Brito in her studio at the Continental Gin Building, she told me each piece begins with mixing colors, and that she mixes until she has the color she is looking for. “Every artist makes their own,” she said.

The best example of the yellow into red, red into yellow is in the private collection of JR Compton. All that Goethe mentions is seen in this piece, and it should be noted that the artist gave the piece to Compton in gratitude for help he had given her. The intense yellow-red gladdening into the deep arterial red of heart blood, the blood of giving, of gratitude, of sharing. If you believe in ‘auras’, then that cast by Fannie Brito is this ‘yellow-red’.

Some gift, I thought when I saw it.

Upon leaving Continental Gin, I kept thinking of Brito’s dark, lively eyes, friendly and kind, open and ready to share, yet also revealing shyness. Her excitement at the interview was clear, and she made no attempt to mask it. I wondered how it would feel to be her medical patient, in that peculiar, vulnerable way that goes with sitting in the exam room, the doctor preparing to do her work. Somehow, I knew I would feel much safer if it were Dr. Brito walking in.

Fannie Brito - Tormenta Interna

Fannie Brito   Tormenta interna (Internal storm)   2005 -
This one was done after Katrina.
pigments and acrylic 4 x 5 feet

Then there was the voice, smoky and dark, English heavily accented with Spanish. The voice communicated the same qualities of friendliness, gladness, and sharing as the eyes, and was colored with Yellow-red, Red-yellow. I sensed another hue as well, hidden in the others, a color I recall from my childhood giant box of 64 Crayola crayons called Burnt Umber.

Brito has a fascinating biography. She was born in Carmel, California, and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Her father was a high ranking Naval officer and later Ambassador to Belgium. She grew up around art, as her father was also a passionate collector. She recalled her shock upon discovering his opinion that women could not be as effective in art as men, because their creativity was taken up by the tasks of child-bearing.

She says of her mother only that she was “traditional.” Without her saying anything else, I had to imagine that mother was quite a bit more than the one word used to describe her.

We sat in weighted silence, waiting for the next thing to come up. Another few moments, and then she said, “I never thought I had any talent.”

Brito entered medical school at The Autonomous University of Guadalajara, in Jalisco, Mexico, where she met her husband. In 1989, the two young doctors, one Mexican, one Venezuelan, came to the United States. He passed medical boards here, and began a family practice. Fannie failed her boards. I can only imagine the difficulty in attempting medical boards in a foreign language when they are hard enough in one’s own.

“I am not a scientific person,” she said, looking directly at me. “I can master this stuff with hard study, but science and math is not me.”

Fannie Brito - Ciclo del Glycoseno

Fannie Brito    Ciclo del Glycoseno     2009    pigments and acrylic    4 x 4 feet

Nevertheless, she became what Latin culture prescribed for her, baby-maker and housewife, dependant on her husband. They had three children before the marriage fell apart, for ‘all the usual reasons when a man is surrounded by nurses all the time.’ Uh huh, enough said.

Brito has also studied Art History and French in Montreaux, Switzerland, and has received an Expressive Art Therapy certification.

After the birth of her first child, Andrea, she began to explore art. She took a class in Two Dimensional Design at North Lake College and was soon invited by the African American Museum to enter an upcoming show featuring Latin artists. Almost immediately, she was selling work and winning awards in juried shows. Her interest and success in art was threatening to her husband, and the already strained couple came undone.

Her children are Andrea, a 22 year old college student, another daughter, Fernanda, 15, and Enrique, 14. Her experience with teens while teaching art at Bishop Dunne High School led her to understand that she still wishes to practice medicine as a psychiatrist, specializing in teens, the “forgotten people”. To that end, she must prepare for the medical boards again, and then undertake a four year psychiatry residency.

This is a major issue for Brito. As mentioned earlier, she is preparing for the medical boards, as she intends to resume her medical career. She is currently living on money borrowed from her father. I got the sense that much hangs in the balance, and that she lives with great stress over the exams. The outcome will be decisive, as it will open or shut a door to a career that is as meaningful to her as her career in art.

‘Who are your influences?’ I asked, a clumsy, obvious question, but one that has to be asked, because the artistic impulse is first recognized when a person sees an image, reads a poem, sees or hears a performance that causes him to say to himself, I want to BE like that; I want to DO that.

She first cited Venezuelan painter and print maker Alirio Palacios. We discussed Palacios for a while, as I’d not heard of him and then I asked, “Anybody else?”

“Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg,” she said, “I love Rauschenberg.” A little later she named Marc Chagall and Anselm Kiefer. She regards herself as an Abstract Expressionist.

We poked around the studio some more, and she showed me a large painting in progress, at least three feet by five feet, lying on the floor next to a rough wooden table. Near it were various easels of differing styles and size. It was surrounded by jars of paint, brushes, tools, power cords, cans, all dangerously close to the freshly worked surface. I was reminded of my daughter working on her projects on the floor of her room. Seeing that a mature artist works in the same way as a teenager revealed much about the freshness and enthusiasm she brings to her work.

After wading through the complex biography, and going through all the corners of the studio, I was approaching information overload. My brain swam with color, mostly yellow-red and another Brito favorite, what Goethe called ‘blue-red’.

And, I found myself wondering, What will happen to her art while all she is doctoring and parenting and who knows what else?

But the answer to that is obvious. Her work in art has a life of its own, and Brito will most certainly continue to give the art its due, no matter what else she might be doing.


Jim Dolan
Professional Coach to Legal and Medical Professionals and

Jim Dolan's DallasArtsRevue Member page.
Jim's personal website.
Other Art Stories by Jim Dolan


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