In a somewhat hidden street near the plaza in Old Chinatown, a group of art appreciators stands around a small space aglow with neon light.
A sense of mischief hangs in the air. Some of the attendees admire the art with PBRs in hand — procured from somewhere not obvious to the casual visitor — while others hang out in clusters laughing loudly. Stairs in the middle of the space lead to a walkway that wraps around the space, perfect for people-watching. Back on the first floor, art lovers pick up sheets with information about the artist next to a bag of chocolates and a fish in a small tank.
Elsewhere in the gallery, Brittney Scott mingles with visitors and explains some of the inspiration behind her neon quadrilaterals.
if you don’t know much about Scott, aka B6, the works in her solo show “L7” might require some explanation. The neon pieces — bright compositions that mostly use square and rectangular shapes — are actually portraits of people.
Scott started gaining followers with another type of portrait: the digitally drawn avatar. Scott created an avi of herself as a pink-faced floating head with a downturned mouth and a bun of messy black hair. The unhappy face got noticed by DJs like A-Trak — Scott has friends in the EDM scene — and took off from there.
Now the artist boasts more than 10,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram. But early in 2015, Scott felt as if she was having “some sort of mental breakdown.” She went to Europe and lost her phone, an act that ended up inspiring her current "portraits."
“Yeah, I was partying and I lost it at some festival,” says Scott. “That was in Spain and when I went back to Paris — I was spending most of my time in Paris — I got a French phone. It was just this really crappy smartphone and the paint app that I downloaded on it produced squares. I was still taking portrait requests and I was getting kind of tired of drawing people. I just kind of wanted to see what I could get away with.”
This freedom of self-expression permeates her social media personality, too. She remembers her group of friends using Twitter as an avenue for humor. They playfully started “tweeting really obnoxious all-capital-letter shit abut partying and like DJs " and people started noticing.
Eventually, Scott’s main friend group — the Yung Klout Gang — gained notoriety for its social media presence and even got profiled by Buzzfeed in 2012. Scott found her own personality through her drawings as people began to recognize her as the girl who drew digital portraits.
The square portraits in “L7” are another step in Scott’s exploration of digital art, a medium she sees as “a new frontier.” By planning a physical show, Scott creates two versions of each portrait: the tangible and the intangible.
“It’s just fun making digital art and then bringing it to life in physical space,” says Scott. “This time, I figured neon would look really sick because I’ve been doing squares and it’s, like, such a simple concept that it would’ve been easy to do.”
In the show, the pieces stand out against stark white walls, a blankness that Scott sees as “similar to cyberspace and Internet" in its vastness and emptiness. The pieces offer no information besides the twitter handle of the person represented: friends of Scott, the artist herself and famous names like Skrillex and Kreayshawn.
Despite her celebrity acquaintances, Scott wants to keep her practice open to anyone on social media. She just puts what she creates out there and watches how the Internet reacts.
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“My whole purpose is to involve people and build a community and, like, make people feel welcome and that I care about them,” says Scott.
The web serves as both Scott’s medium and canvas, supplying her with a free space for expression even while it might seem restrictive when it comes to standards like character limits. But Scott knows the game well by now — her story is a testament to the power of the Internet to make visuals such as her avatars incredibly viral.
“The Internet is so insane; I wouldn’t be where I am without it,” says Scott.
"L7" will be on view until Feb. 11 at @leiminspace. 433 Lei Min Way, downtown. Open Wed-Sat 1-6 p.m. and by appointment. Scott will also be showing work in a group show on Jan. 31.