Quinn Antonio Briceño
When we think about the richness of the American art scene, we often place too much emphasis on the major metropolitan areas, incorrectly deeming them our cultural vanguards. But what about the vast richness that oozes out of the rest of the country? Artists like Quinn Antonio Briceño are critical to maintaining the vibrancy of our eclectic patchwork, and the integrity of our heritage is nothing without the creativity bursting from the heartland.
A Nicaraguan-American artist living in St. Louis, the prolific painter uses his art to explore the immigrant experience and the city that has nourished his creativity and given him a home. And recently, we were eager to tap into his passion and utilize his bold vision to create a piece that would symbolize the richness of his local community.
An ode to the Gateway city and his fellow St. Louisans, Briceño’s whopping 27 x 9 foot mural pushed the artist to embrace a new level of physicality as he found himself literally moving around the canvas, almost like a dance. Spending hours at the site daily, his creative process also served as a meditation on the local community, its spirit, and its sense of pride.
A striking personal story with universal appeal, Briceño celebration of a small city in middle America is a tale that belongs to all of us. Join us as the artist discusses culture, the artistic process, and how his work captures the power of community.
Todos Somos St. Louis by Quinn Antonio Briceño
Kate Kelly: First, I’d love to start from the beginning. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and let us know where you’re from and a little bit about yourself?
Quinn Antonio Briceño: My name is Quinn Antonio Briceño. I’m a Nicaraguan-American artist residing in St. Louis, Missouri. I got my BFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2017, and my MFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2022. I was born here in St. Louis in 1993, lived in Nicaragua until I was 5, and moved back to St. Louis. I’ve been living here ever since except for my two years in San Francisco.
KK: You speak so thoughtfully about your cultural heritage and how it influences your work. I’d love to hear you expand on that.
QAB: Because I left Nicaragua at such a young age, I’ve felt for a long time that something was missing. In the neighborhood that I grew up in in the late 90s and early 2000s, I didn’t have anyone to speak Spanish with. Due to this, I lost my ability to speak fluent Spanish. I can understand most of what is spoken to me, but replying is my issue. Like many people who are from bi-cultural families, I feel like I have a foot in both cultures, but don’t fully belong to either. My art, in a way, is a method of exploring and celebrating the missing pieces of my identity as a Nicaraguan-American. While I typically focus on my Nicaraguan side, this mural celebrates my American side – particularly the St. Louis side.
KK: I thought your artist statement was beautiful – particularly your reflection on the act of collaging. You said, “My work takes society’s scraps and the personal stories and histories of my family to create a new environment”. I’m curious about how working on such a large scale for this mural project might have impacted your personal relationship with the work.
QAB: Physically, a mural of that size requires commitment. The sheer size demanded a physicality unlike any other painting I’ve done before because it required my whole body to work around the 27 ft x 9ft substrate, along with the life-sized or more than life-sized figures. I had to work on the mural every day after work for 3 to 4 hours at a time. It became a sort of daily ritual. My personal relationship was affected due to this necessary commitment. To work on something that size for as long as I had to, I had to like or even grow to love what I was painting. St. Louis gets a bad rep a lot of the time for so many things, but St. Louisans have a lot of love for our community despite its flaws.
KK: Your work is brimming with pride for your local community. Can you tell us about some of the local fixtures that make it into your work, and why?
QAB: In the mural, there were many landmarks that made it into the painting. St. Louis’ Union Station with its Ferris wheel; Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play; Eads bridge, which is the oldest bridge on the Mississippi river, the iconic Gateway Arch; and the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was held. These are all very important and historic landmarks of our community and painting a scene of St. Louis would not have felt right without including them. Busch Stadium is central, with the words “St. Louis” peeking behind the brass band. When it was built, the architects used structures like Eads and Union Station as inspiration for its design. Similarly, I felt that using these structures, and digitally collaging them together cohesively, tied everything together. With the brass band in the foreground, and the collaged background, the landmarks became an amalgamation of pride for the city.
KK: I’m curious if, when coming up with concepts for this piece, there were other ideas that didn’t make the cut. Can you tell us about how you landed on the final imagery, and why? What didn’t work in the end?
QAB: The final imagery was the third iteration of sketches that I did for the project. The first focused on individuals in the community, the second expanded to smaller groups but had the element of the brass band within it. The client really enjoyed the brass band element, and so the third iteration had them central with a community surrounding them. I believe the others didn’t work because they were too focused on individuals and not the community as a whole.
KK: What does it mean to you to be a part of such a robust local arts community? Do you ever imagine moving to a larger metropolis, or will St. Louis always be home?
QAB: St. Louis is an interesting place regarding the arts. It has a growing arts community and many great artists have come from the area. While I don’t necessarily see myself moving any time soon, I’m not opposed to moving if the right opportunity arises. However, today with the internet and social media, it is much easier to live in a place like St. Louis where the rent is cheap, and I can still market my artwork nationally and internationally. St. Louis will always be home, so even if I do leave at some point, the plan would be to come back.
KK: Your work is such a deeply personal expression of your own experience navigating the world. I’m curious about how you hope to connect with your audience. What do you want them to take away from your art?
QAB: I hope to connect to my audience by showing their lives reflected in my paintings. I find my most successful paintings are ones that the viewers can connect with in some way and either see themselves or a loved one as the subject or belonging in the painting in some way. In doing so, they can empathize, as well as celebrate what is going on in the painting.
KK: I always love to give the artist an opportunity to share something on their own…..anything you’d like! Is there anything you’d like us to know about you, take away, or think about more deeply?
QAB:Outside of my artistic practice, I frame artwork, I teach at St. Louis Community College, and I compose and play music in a local band called Young Animals. I recently got married to my lovely wife Lauren, adopted a puppy that we named Penny and have two cats named Poptart and Pretzel. I am incredibly lucky to be supported by friends, family and loved ones.
If I were to add anything, it would be to say that even though I’ve lost my Spanish and that I feel like an ‘other’ being both Nicaraguan and American, I still have a lot of love for both cultures. My work to some sometimes feels lonely and somber, however, I believe it to be celebratory of both places. In this space where different elements of both cultures are combined, I hope to create a space that is accepting of everyone.
KK: What’s next for you? What are some dream projects you’d love to manifest?
QAB: I have an artist residency and solo show in Rockport, Texas in August and another one in October at Lambert International Airport. I’d love to continue to make some large-scale paintings. If I could manifest anything, it would be to have my work travel and shown internationally. I think it would be incredible for my work to be in new spaces and to be experienced by people outside of the United States. I’d also like to do an international residency. I was able to attend last year’s Biennale in Venice and would like to spend more time exploring European art, especially since some of my work references encaustic tile patterns, which are ubiquitous in Europe and Latin America.
To view more of Quinn’s work please visit his Artrepreneur profile.