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Brash Bear Bares Everything … But His Name
The subversive artist discusses his work, but he won’t tell us who he isby Page Leggett on February 2, 2021
Paula Deen used to be everywhere.
The Savannah restaurant she owns with her family, The Lady and Sons used to have a line that snaked out the door and around the block. She had cookbooks, TV shows, a whole Southern-fried culinary empire. That was before she was outed for making racist remarks.
You can still find Deen’s cookbooks. You might even find one at one of the little free libraries around town — specifically uptown and NoDa. (They’re also in Gatlinburg and Nashville, Tennessee.)
If you do find one, open it up (even if you don’t ever want to make her bacon burger sandwiched between two Krispy Kreme donuts).
If there’s a “Can the Klan” graphic on the inside cover, you’ve just found one of Brash Bear’s altered books. He wants you to take a second and think about the book you’re holding. He wants to hit you in a way that makes you think about the person who wrote it and the pervasiveness of racism. It’s still hiding in seemingly innocuous places and traditions sprinkled across everyday life.
“I didn’t choose to single out just Paula Deen,” said the subversive artist via email. “Her books just happened to be some of the first I snagged when I originally came up with the idea to do altered books. I also picked up a couple of books from the Duck Dynasty boys and altered them as well. And over the last couple months, I’ve found [books by] a few more controversial figures to alter and put out.”
The artist whose name shall not be revealed speaks of his alter ego in the third person: “Brash has gotten out and around town a few times – but less than he truly needs and wants to.”
You’ll know you’re seeing a Brash Bear work if you see his trademark Queen City paw (a hybrid of Charlotte’s crown logo and a bear paw). But Brash has a number of symbols, including a “Nature Bear” logo, which is a tribute to one of his idols – Ric “Nature Boy” Flair.
These marks show up as stickers or “slaps,” and Brash hopes we’ll all be seeing more of them. He has to force himself to “sit down and be productive, to put a carver to lino block or ink to paper,” he said.
The Bear Wakes
Brash moved to Charlotte from Nashville in 2019 with his “amazing partner in crime, art, as well as life, @fox_dad_clt.”
“I have a bit more of a wanderer’s spirit than he does,” he said. “And I am much more prone to picking up and finding a new adventure somewhere, but for now my feet are happily planted here in the Queen City.”
The artist won’t reveal much about himself except to say he’s 33, is “as white as a jug of milk,” is blessed and cursed with ADHD and was raised in a Washington, D.C. suburb before moving to Nashville, where he lived on and off for nearly 20 years.
Brash joined Charlotte’s underground art culture last summer. He made Black Lives Matter “fist of power” postcards featuring the Charlotte crown and taped them up around NoDa. Now, he uses the more efficient postage labels.
Bears and Night Owls
His art work – both its creation and its placement – happen at night, much like other underground artists.
“I am very much a night owl and am most productive when the sun is down,” he said. By day, he works in an “upscale adult boutique lingerie and novelty store.”
He finds inspiration in other artists, including @stencilspray, @marcher.arrant, @h_x.n_c.h_o and members of the “Tough Ass Crew” (TAC Gallery, 3225 N. Davidson St.) and would love to have more co-conspirators. (He encourages other creatives to get in touch.)
He never means to offend.
At the same time, he’s not afraid to offend, either.
“Art is supposed to create and form feelings, thoughts, conversations,” he said. “I make art to express how I feel. I don’t worry about what some random stranger may think. I always want to be fun and silly and enjoyable in what I produce and put out.”