A fabric “sculptural quilt"
There are certain pieces of art that make an indelible mark on the viewer, and such was the case with an installation created by Brandon Bullard for the 2016 Experiencing Perspectives art exhibition, hosted by Mercedes-Benz Financial Services at their offices in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The annual exhibition features the work of students and graduates of Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, as part of a long-standing partnership with the company.
Bullard, a 2017 graduate of the Academy, created a striking custom work that was displayed for the one-year duration of the exhibition. Due to the high degree of interest in this initial piece, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services subsequently commissioned Bullard to create a smaller-scale execution of the concept to be part of its growing permanent collection.
The original work, entitled #26: MBFS, consisted of branded promotional items,-from banners to beach towels. Quilting, weaving and collage processes were then used to piece together a storyboard surface within the ceiling of the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services building, that highlighted important products, services, awards and values of the company.
Emotional ties to brand inspire creativity
Bullard has an emotional tie to the Mercedes-Benz brand because of his grandparents, who were brand aficionados. “My grandma would travel to Germany to get the latest model,” Bullard explains. He also drew upon the synergy created by channeling his emotional tie into the pursuit of his graduate studies.
A number of site-specific installations had prepared Bullard for the unique challenge of using materials he had never seen before, but this was also the first time Mercedes-Benz Financial Services had enhanced the value of expired materials by recycling them into an artwork.
Bullard says that he enjoyed the camaraderie that came from the employees as they watched his work evolve in their building and asked questions about the process.
“I loved meeting new people and talking with them, and the best part was, as far as I was concerned, there was no hierarchy and I didn’t know who was who,” Bullard says. “That’s how I ended up talking with the company president and didn’t even know it.”
Reimagining the piece: Warhol, Mercedes-Benz brand come together
Bullard recently completed and delivered a second, smaller-scale version of the piece, #29: Midnight Oil, which is now part of the company’s permanent collection. He used a color palette that was inspired by a commissioned Andy Warhol piece that is installed in the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services offices, near Bullard’s work.
To make the piece timeless, nearly 90 percent of it uses the tire track concept, although he also was able to repurpose some of the branded materials he had used in the initial installation; upon closer examination, a viewer can glimpse them among the tracks.
He refers to the finished piece as a “sculptural quilt,” — sculptural in the sense that one can walk around it to gain a new perspective from every position, and “quilt” because he stitched together the various materials using traditional quilting techniques inside a frame.
The piece is aptly named Midnight Oil, not only for the obvious reference to the automotive industry, but also because that’s how the piece was created—by burning the midnight oil, Bullard says. He would perform his “day job” with the Urban Outfitters design team in San Jose, California, from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and then head to his studio to create, six days a week.
Of course each artistic endeavor brings with it unanticipated hurdles; With a need for used tires to make prints with, Bullard quickly picked up the phone and sourced them through Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Detroit and San Jose. Then the next hurdle was shipping it across the country, which was carefully carried out via special crates.
Writing his next chapter
“I have the pleasure of sitting across from Brandon Bullard’s Midnight Oil installation,” says Kathy Chabot, Administrative Assistant to the President. “It’s bright and colorful with four pieces angled together to look like one. Often, I see people stop and admire Brandon’s work, as well as talk about it. He’s a very talented artist.”
As Mercedes-Benz Financial Services employees enjoy #29: Midnight Oil, Bullard is contemplating new creative opportunities after moving back to his hometown of Denver in July 2018. “I am so thankful for the opportunities [Mercedes-Benz Financial Services] gave me. I am better as an artist, thanks to the growth I’ve had throughout this process,” he says, especially pointing out the joy he had in working with the company every step of the way, from inspiration to creative direction to promotion.
To view Brandon Bullard and other artists’ work at the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services offices, you may RSVP to the Experiencing Perspectives Art Reception, to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m.
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