Split Personality

A multi-talented artist divides his time between PVD and NYC


Houses have featured prominently in Andrew Moon Bain’s paintings lately. In his newest work, houses are surrounded by fire; or they sit vacant, their doors open to expose darkness inside. Others wink from within, emitting multi-colored beams. It’s natural for the viewer to think about the lives of the imaginary inhabitants of each of these houses – their hardships, their triumphs. For Bain himself, home is a natural theme as well, as he’s spending half of his time in Providence and the other half in Brooklyn; half of his working hours focused on art, and half on music. Home is perhaps a slippery concept for him right now, but he is grounded in the belief that he’s doing what he’s meant to do.

The base of Bain’s Providence operation, where he paints, draws, and screen prints is filled with art, bikes, books, photos, paper (most of it scribbled or drawn upon) and accessories to his musical life. It’s a spartan but lively place. The work coming out of this room is layered and sumptuous – the figures and settings full of life and mystery, infused with euphoric spirituality, even when its themes are bleak. “I’m trying to make the horrific beautiful,” Bain says.

One of Bain’s favorite techniques is to collage screen printed patterns directly onto his paintings, which tend not to focus on one central subject but cluster them in scattered constellations, the colorful collage elements serving as connective matter. Bain implies meaning through the titles of his pieces – sometimes playful, sometimes somber – like Great Owl Hollow Peace Council 1884 and I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It! The titles clue the viewer into each piece’s veiled meaning, and hint at humor and a modern mythology.

Raised in Seattle, Bain came to Rhode Island to attend RISD; upon finding a trailblazing, welcoming art scene in Providence, he stuck around. He had a busy, productive 2011 and his work was featured in shows at the Buonaccorsi & Agniel gallery, the AS220 Project Space, Candita Clayton Studio and a gallery in New Jersey. He also spent time playing and recording with his band, Boo City, whose latest release Midnight Folklore came out in December.

Even as Bain shuttles back and forth to Brooklyn – where his partner and daughter live – he’s grateful for the many good things that his dual life brings. And he still has a deep fondness for Providence. “I’m super inspired by Providence artists,” Bain says enthusiastically. “I’m proud of my friends who made the scene what it is, and keep doing what they do.”

Bain’s work can be viewed through February 14 at Providence City Hall, as part of the Buy Art campaign. Boo City will play at the Met Cafe on January 14.