Local artist Brek Townsend’s temporary murals blur the line between street and gallery art. His work can be seen across downtown Ogden, appearing and disappearing overnight.
Street artist Banksy once said “Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked, where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases,” Auction Director Martin Nolan told Broadway World in 2013.
Long before the Banksy film “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” Brek Townsend had been, quite literally, painting the town. Today, he is becoming well-known for his large-scale, thought-provoking paper murals.
His installations often feature anti-establishment and propaganda themes.
“I force people to look at my artwork and hope that it makes them question things going on around them,” Townsend said. “I’m essentially throwing negative American ethos back in their faces.”
Each piece can take up to 35 hours to complete and is typically crafted from weather resistant paper or cardboard. Townsend currently has two installations in the city, “Nine Clowns in Cobalt and American Dream,” but they may not be around for long.
“Since they are installed pieces, my work does not stay around for long,” Townsend said. “They’re either removed by the city or stolen by the public.”
Murals and art installations are becoming commonplace in Ogden. The city’s art scene is on the rise, due to the contributions of artists like Jane Kim and Townsend.
“Brek brings a fresh but local face to Ogden’s street art scene,” said Brent Atwood, Nurture The Creative Mind’s Local Artist of 2017. “I see his movement becoming a sort of status quo for other artists making their mark in Ogden.”
The “American Dream” instillation, located at 234 25th St. was placed on Sept. 8 for Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll. The piece features vintage-style portraits of 12 white men and one white woman. Individual letters spell “american dream” across their foreheads.
“The country has been in a severe state of distress,” Townsend said of the piece’s inspiration, “and I feel that people are still hanging onto this vintage ‘American Dream’ way of life.”
Townsend went on to discuss how the American Dream isn’t created equally, noting how many citizens still face adversity, racism, classism, sexism and under-representation.
“This is why I left out people of other races and only painted one female,” Townsend continued. “This American Dream that is preached, ultimately by white Americans, is so wrong. I’m basically throwing that back in this country’s face. It’s a mirror.”
The second piece “Nine Clowns in Cobalt,” located at 2262 Washington Blvd., is comprised of nine individual clown portraits. Townsend said he’s been drawn to clowns since a young age and admittedly uses them because most people don’t like them.
“I’ve enjoyed clowns as long as I can remember. Clowns originated from mythological characters called tricksters,” Townsend said. “They create coherence through confusion and, in a way, add disorder to the world in order to expose its lies and speak the truth.”
In addition to creating artwork, Townsend runs an art collective called PALE. The group offers a platform with no censorship or restraints for artists and individuals. Those interested in the collective can get more information by visiting @peopleartlifeetcetera on Instagram.