When he was a first-year student at Bridgewater, Douglas Breault had to make a tough phone call. The then-English major had taken a photography course as an elective and was smitten.
“It was something I was ten times more interested in than writing,” he said.
The call he had to make, telling his mother he was about to become an art major and that he wanted to be an artist, ended up not being that tough.
“She asked, ‘Where did that come from?’”
Mr. Breault immediately tacked in this new direction and hasn’t looked back.
“It seemed like a leap of faith,” the North Smithfield, R.I., native said. “But you learn to jump in with both feet and immerse yourself in it.”
The gamble paid off. Since then, his work has been featured in multiple solo exhibitions, earned him a three-week travel grant from Tufts University enabling him to study in London and Paris, and in October he’ll enjoy a three-week residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or Mass MoCa, as it's commonly referred to.
His mother couldn’t be prouder.
Mr. Breault graduated from BSU in 2012, and went on to earn an MFA from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. He hopes his residency at Mass MoCa will be the next step in burgeoning career.
The North Adams museum is located along a tributary of the Hoosic River at the former location of the Arnold Print Works. The site has many old factory buildings, which makes the museum the perfect place for art work of all styles and sizes. Since 2015, its residency program has hosted more than 200 artists. Each enjoys large studio space and living accommodations.
Mr. Breault, whose work draws upon painting, photography, sculpture and video, was selected out of 400 hopeful artists who applied for eight available Mass MoCA residencies.
“I applied on a whim to be honest, so I was pretty excited when they called,” he said. “I think there’s really something cool about Mass MoCA. “Usually when people think of cutting-edge art, they think of New York City or London. But here you have these huge installations in the middle of the Berkshires.”
The three weeks at North Adams will be a chance to create unhindered by the usual concerns and life’s demands. It’s also a chance to learn from his fellow artists and do some all-important networking.
Early in his time at Bridgewater, his imagination was captured by the assemblages of the artist Robert Rauschenberg.
“It’s the thing I found here that changed the way I was thinking,” he said. “The audacity of his work and the way he played with the rules.”
During his time at Bridgewater, Mr. Breault's work was featured in The Bridge, the student-run journal of art and writing. His undergraduate years also allowed him to connect with several BSU faculty members, particularly Mary Dondero, Angel Tucker, Mercedes Nunez, John Hooker and Ivana George. Not only did these artists influence his work, they’ve given him other ideas about his future.
“I'd like to teach somewhere like Bridgewater,” Mr. Breault said. “Learning at an institution like this, you want to come back.”
Perhaps its best to let Mr. Breault explain in his own words the kind of art he creates. This is from a recent artist's statement: I construct advanced directions of hybrid art-making, in which photography, sculpture, installation, video, and digital imagery merge and support one another. The work feels improvisational or even haphazard, but conveys a very distinct aesthetic through repeating colors, motifs, and images. I strive to make the viewer alert of the physicality of the mediums I am working with, turning paintings or photography in on space to create sculpture and installation. Gestural acts of decision making, forms and imagery become a dialogical algorithm largely informed by art history, pop culture, and contemporary digital media. Phenomenological traces of tape, lines, paint, deconstructed furniture and wood all act as a particular concrete visual archive that moves through space and chance to land at the feet of the viewer.