Working under an awning at Tenth Street and Broadway, Brooke Oz Burgee scooped out frosting-like globs of white, gold, copper, orange and yellow acrylic paint to begin her first piece on an intensely hot Monday afternoon.
Burgee took a palette knife, cut into the pearly white paint and eyed the black canvas before applying a thick layer over a smeared streak of yellow and orange.
The colors she used had been requested by an 11-year-old girl in Vermont. Whenever Burgee works in public, she reaches out to passers-by and invites them to participate in her creative process.
“Letting others pick a color gives me a much broader palette, if you will,” said Burgee, 28. “Each color is associated with a different experience for each person, and everyone comes from such different backgrounds. I may never pick a color someone else picks.”
The texture of the acrylic paint comes across as three-dimensional as Burgee gently works her palette knife: dabbing, smearing, streaking and cutting across the canvas. This creates the illusion of movement or makes patterns in the paint to convey objects.
Burgee stopped in Columbia, where she shows her work at Poppy, on her way from her summer studio in Vermont to her winter studio and home in Colorado. By 5 p.m., about 30 people had written down their choice of colors, why they picked them and what song their selection is associated with. Later, Burgee will translate several onto the canvas, being faithful to the person’s choice of colors and playing the related music in the background as she works. Before the work goes to a gallery or show, Burgee gives the person who picked the colors the right of first refusal.
Drawing from a work of hers inside the store, Burgee recalled the woman who chose a variety of blues, grays and yellows because it reminded her of classic Fred Astaire movies and Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
“The yellow across the top is the moon,” she said, pointing to a bold streak of gold. “And down here is the water with the reflection of the moon in it.” She motioned to waves of cobalt, turquoise and light violet speckled with golden yellow, a reflection of the slip of moon above.
Burgee has always been an artist, but before she followed her dream, she ran a private concierge service — even bringing live reindeer to someone’s front yard one Christmas Eve. Now, she is putting together a documentary to show during a national speaking tour in 2008. Her intent is to speak to students in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and businesses.
“I want to speak to them about how to break down goals and get to where you want to be,” Burgee said. “I want to help people find ways to connect, whether it’s from one individual to another or from one community to another.”