Brendon Palmer-Angell brings people to life through his art. The 38-year-old New Orleans artist specializes in realistic painting and murals. His work has been exhibited everywhere from Louisiana to Washington D.C. The New York native most frequently makes detailed portraiture and figurative work. His portraits pop off the surface as if they were photographs. His favorite mediums include oil paint, spray paint, and drawing with charcoal and graphite.
Palmer-Angell made his first mural in New Orleans in 2018. He learned about the art of murals from an artist friend from Germany. Palmer-Angell has been the artist behind two of Walls Project’s public art installations including murals on Winbourne Avenue in 2018 and 2019.
“The Walls project is doing amazing things not only for the community but for artists like me to have these sorts of opportunities,” he says. “It really gave me the opportunity to grow as an artist, embrace my potential, and be involved with the Baton Rouge community.”
Walls spoke with Palmer-Angell to discuss public art, his role in the local art scene, and his creative process.
Tell me about two public artworks that you’re most proud of and what makes them special to you…
It's been really amazing to see the way the community has really embraced the Allen Toussaint mural. It's become a bit of a landmark. Most recently, it ended up in a Jon Batiste music video. It was also a stop on a second line for another major artist.
Another one I really enjoyed was a mural to commemorate Michael Anderson, a Columbia astronaut that was born in my hometown. He died in the Columbia space shuttle. Plattsburg, NY is homogeneously white. With Michael Anderson being a black man and being able to commemorate him at that scale downtown and to see how much it meant to see [Black people] represented in their community was really special. I think that speaks to the power of public art to spark conversations and do placemaking.
What inspires you to create? Where do you go to get inspired?
A lot of my work comes from an image that has grabbed me and conveys the spirit of a person. I really love murals to give people the opportunity to pause. I find a lot of my inspiration and energy comes from the artists that I know. And seeing other work locals do. Also from social media.
How long does it take you to create murals on average?
Large-scale murals take anywhere from one to two weeks. That depends a lot on weather conditions. Mural making ends up being a marathon process for me. I’m pretty slow compared to a lot of folks. Especially when it comes to rendering facial features.
Why is art in public spaces necessary for the community?
Art has the power to spark conversation but also to uplift a space. It becomes owned by a community and when it's accessible it can foster a sense of pride in a community. I think there's also real power in people being able to see themselves celebrated in public space. Specifically [subjects] who look like the people in the community.
What impact do you think art in public spaces has?
To beautify a space is something everyone benefits from. It can inspire creativity for young people and people of any age. For me, I know when I see a large-scale work, I'm still always amazed by it. The idea that as artists we can create something that monumental is a really inspiring thing.