Stirring art Coffee shops provided inspiration for LASM sculpture artist

In college, viewers compared Jonathan Brilliant’s work to Richard Long’s.

Brilliant was studying 1970s work trends of some American artists. He shifted his research to Great Britain, where Long lives and incorporates nature into his artwork.

“He uses his natural environment,” Brilliant says. “He’s just one of a group of British artists who do this, and I started thinking about my natural environment.”

Brilliant worked when he wasn’t attending classes, and in between undergraduate and graduate school, he arranged studio time around odd jobs.

“I thought about it,” Brilliant says. “Richard Long’s natural environment was outside, but my natural environment was the coffee shop.”

It made sense. It’s where Brilliant spent his leisure time, and he started seeing possibilities in everyday items.

He already was applying a weaving process to his artwork — textiles or metal sculpture — and the 7-inch, rounded-end wooden stirring sticks in his local coffee shop played into this theme.

“I weave them like this,” Brilliant says, placing one stirrer atop another, then fitting it behind yet another.

He’ll keep doing this until he’s weaved enough stirrers to fill a room, as he’s done in the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s Soupcon Gallery.

It’s April 1, only a week after Brilliant began weaving his sculpture. He’s been talking to people as he works, answering questions, explaining his process.

Now it’s done, a sculpture he’s titled, “The Red Stick Piece,” designed especially for this gallery whose window overlooks the Mississippi River.

“I look at pictures of the space before I start working in it,” Brilliant says. “When I saw the pictures of this gallery, I knew I wanted to design something that would incorporate the view of the river into it.”

Walk around “The Red Stick Piece,” and you’ll notice that its edges are flowing in a definite direction, as if the river is sweeping it onto the bank.

“My work is created for a particular space at a particular time,” Brilliant says of the abstract piece that will come down June 29. “When it comes down, it’s destroyed. So, it exists only for that time.”

That makes the working space more personal for Brilliant. He doesn’t maintain a studio in his North Carolina home. There’s no need.

The gallery spaces are the pages of his sketchbook, and the coffee stirrers his pen marks. In between, he incorporates a bent wood effect through a series of stacked coffee cup sleeves. On the wall, he evokes the river’s horizon line by using coffee grounds as his paint.

The museum partnered with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and the LSU School of Art to bring Brilliant to Baton Rouge. He’s spoken to art classes at LSU and Baton Rouge Community College during his stay.