All posts by Bryan Northup

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Bryan Northup

Me with installation Artist with installation 'You Can't Put It Back In The Box'

Artist with installation ‘You Can’t Put It Back In The Box’

My name is Bryan Northup and I’m honored that my work “Cautionary Entrails” was selected to be a part of the de/composition exhibit at Main Street Arts. I am particularly pleased that this work found a place to be shown, framed in a such a compelling theme.

Cautionary Entrails

“Cautionary Entrails” by Bryan Northup

I am a Chicago based environmental artist, originally from Northern California. I have been making art for most of my life, drawing horses during church sermons and taking any and all art classes offered in high school. I graduated from California College of the Arts in Oakland, California with a BFA in Fine Art Photography and since then have been a self taught, intuitive artist.

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Earlier work, 2000 – 2014

I work in several media including cold and warm glass, painting, mixed media sculpture and photography. Until recently, I focused on working with glass, from traditional stained glass and mosaics to experiments with recycled bottles, creating kiln-formed, functional tableware, lighting and sculptural works.  See more here >

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Plastic art material

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My studio worktable, kinda clean

I was awakened to the serious problem of single-use plastics in 2015. I like to think that a dead tree changed the trajectory of my art practice. I was fortunate to be selected to create a public art sculpture through the Chicago Tree Project that utilized a dead tree (one of many in the city’s parks) as a framework for sculpture. I chose to shift my material from glass bottles to plastic beverage bottles for many logistical reasons, but through the process of creating the sculpture entitled “Message In A Bottle”  I discovered the invisible scourge of single use plastic and ties to the bottled water industry. Shifting my thinking, message and medium to create with everyday found materials that no one was thinking about seemed the most important outcome of the project.

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View while installing Message in a Bottle

Before this experience I had no idea that plastic lasts forever, never decomposing, or the amounts of plastic produced, used and thrown away on a daily basis, all designed to be disposed of. As I researched more, these facts changed my awareness and the focus of my artwork.

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Detail of a “sliced roll”

Now I use these plastics and foam to create wall relief and sculpture works that abstract food, mimic organic forms and invent pseudo-biological structures. I attempt to blur the lines between appetizing consumables, anatomical dissection and waste — exploring layers of meaning in an age where plastics have saturated our environment and penetrated human-kind both biologically and culturally, to the cellular level.

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Work in progress

While being an environmental plague, I have found plastic to be an incredibly dynamic art medium. I work with plastic as a fiber, a fabric, in some ways as a cooking ingredient, a food. I incorporate common tools such as chef knife to cut the rolls and an iron to laminate sheets of films together. Creating rolls, “sushi- style” is a technique I originated when I started working with plastic. It’s a meditation, adding unlikely and inedible ingredients like foam, bubble wrap, plastic bags while I reflect on how these same steps are so closely related to making nourishing food, something we crave and can actually eat.  I think about all the wildlife, particularly in the ocean that that ingest plastic because of our dependence on it.

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My first plastic wall relief, Sea Change, 36×48

The organic forms and textures I create suggest perishable matter, “flesh”, “tissue” likely to spoil and decay quickly, but because these objects are created with plastic, they will never naturally decompose  but just appear to be, forever, in a state of suspended decomposition.

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Detail

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a bit better. You can see much more of my work on my website, www.bryannorthup.com, I post regularly on Instagram @bryan.northup and have a Facebook page @beyondbiolumglass


Bryan Northup is one of 31 artists featured in the national juried exhibition de/composition at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shopde/composition runs through June 28, 2019.