May 18, 2011

The GOOD Life: Brianna McCarthy

For the past month or so, I have been trying to think of ways to improve the “People You Should Know” interviews that I conduct from time to time; not that these interviews weren’t already excellent. I wanted the questions I asked to go a little deeper but I wasn’t sure which angle to approach them from. Interestingly enough, I found my answer in the philosophy class that I took this past semester. My professor created this eye-opening concept of “the good life” and challenged each of us to take look at our own present situations, think back on our past experiences, consider our future goals, and ask ourselves this question: What is my definition of a good life? This level of introspection was fairly new for me and, although it did give me a mild headache, it really forced me to look into myself and determine the things in my life that I place the greatest stock in.

Later on in the semester, we began reading some of Henry David Thoreau’s essays and assessing his ideologies and it was at that point that I had my Oprah-esque Aha! Moment. You see, Thoreau didn’t feel like he was placed on this Earth to please everyone or to conform to the narrow beliefs of society; his main purpose in life was to live it as deliberately and authentically as he possibly could. I felt so inspired by Thoreau’s mindset and, having realized that this was his idea of a good life, decided that I wanted to take this exploration further. Because of this sense of ‘knowledge of self’ that I gained from my philosophy class, I really want to carry this theme of “the good life” into my interviews from now on in the hopes that all of you reading this will feel challenged to look within yourselves and discover what your idea of a good life is as well!

The first individual that I will be interviewing in this new set of features called “The GOOD Life” is an artist who hails from Trinidad and Tobago and whose vibrant artwork entices the eye and sweetens the soul.

Brianna McCarthy
What is your definition of a “good life”? Do you feel as if that is what you are living?
A good life is, for me, when the things that make you smile are more powerful than those that don’t; when what is gained through sharing with others and having them share with you vast outweighs what is taken by day to day living. It isn’t about money or material possessions; it’s about having love, respect, communion with people you want to share with, tasks you enjoy, having some kind of work to do and the option to just rest sometimes. It’s fulfilling, I think, and so important. I think I do have a “good life”, yes. With a lot of support I have that as a real possibility for which I am very grateful.

How important do you feel it is for people to follow their passions, even if doing so doesn't seem like a "secure" life choice?
It’s critical I would say. Maybe not immediately but I, in deciding to practice art full time, just had to look around, to listen, to observe in order to see the impact of not following those innate passions – everywhere there are people who feel stunted, wasted, a little bitter because of that disconnect from what is essentially the thing that they’re meant to do. I’m young, it’s easy for me to say “Go for it!” but that’s ok, that’s a part of being young. It’s something I hope never lose really and something I hope to pass on to my children when they come; take a few wise risks, believe, work hard, play hard, respect others and never give up. It’s not always an easy decision to live with, not always easy to believe in myself but everyday I wake up with the anticipation of making something today, working on something today – knowing I have this freedom and being challenged to not waste it. That’s the worst thing I feel I could do; waste this. So, as discouraging as it can sometimes be, I have a gift, I have a blessing, I have been given something, decided something – however you choose to see it – and I have to make the most of that.

What aspect of your work makes you the happiest? Which aspect do you like the least?
I enjoy that the ladies seemingly have their own personalities. I’m most pleased, I find this to be a part of what makes me keep going, when I see something positive come out of my work for someone else. People contact me – women contact me – when they say that my work has helped them see themselves as beautiful beings I’m thrilled. That’s worth it. I’m my biggest discourager at times. What I dislike most is when I feel like what I’m doing is irrelevant. It’s heavy. 

Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew a few years ago that could have helped you along your life path?
That things are alright! That I shouldn’t be so afraid all the time (I’m still working on that). That it’s sometimes fine to not know exactly what I’m doing. That although some things feel like they happened a long time ago, they didn’t – my life just started at 27; I know nothing, I feel everything. Life might be short but I’m trying not to rush through to some preconceived end. Had I believed this some years ago many things may have been different, however, I can see very plainly how I needed to have NOT believed that then so that I could be here now.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a black woman today? Are these ideals represented in your artwork in any way?
I’ve been feeling for a while, perhaps only because of my relationship with the internet in a particular context, that there’s a resurgence of the Black is Beautiful movement. It’s everywhere and it’s lovely. I’m black and West Indian – which is a unique dynamic (some might say trauma) and I do find it incredibly stimulating to attempt to understand my society at work in me and in my work. In most ways my work is about myself. By extension, it’s about women, West Indian women, Black women, girls becoming women, what does that even mean?, how am I, are we, perceived by our societies and how to we negotiate with our unique challenges. I’m deconstructing myself – sometimes literally.

 Where do you see yourself and your artwork in the next 5-10 years?
Is it bad to say I don’t have a clue? I’d like to think I would have found the next step by then and would have not been afraid to take it. I would want to have challenged myself or to have been challenged into being more. I can’t predict what that is at this point but I’m working now to ensure that I’m still making things then.

What advice would you give to someone who is unsure about what career they want to pursue?
When you’re most content, genuinely fulfilled, challenges and all; stick with it, work hard. Doesn’t mean everyday will meet you delirious and dancing with happiness but it will mean that everyday, should you feel like it’s not working, if you gave it some thought you’d be able to see that you have much to dance about. The day you can’t see that, take a break. Allow yourself to cry. Laugh as much as possible. Know your value. Choose your advisors very carefully and remember that every person struggles, every day with something– you can’t legislate for others. Make time to play by yourself or with those important to you. Be thankful for what is and make provisions for what isn’t. In Trinidad we say, “what is to is must is” – I believe that in some ways.

If you could give someone a quote to live by, what would it be?
I have a few that speak to me. I can only go with what I have learnt myself; this one changed my life quite literally - “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” -Abraham Maslow. Whatever it is you are; be it with discipline, with commitment and with love. I’m trying to do the same.


  1. Fabulous interview!...I am completely in love with her art I want some of her paintings like right now!

    The Black Label

  2. these are haunting! i need to spice up my apartment with some art and i think hers are perfection! thank you for sharing and i will check out her site ASAP :)))

  3. Anonymous5/18/2011

    I discovered her artwork a few years back and she's truly one of my favorite creative people, hands down. There is such grace in the lines and curves of those faces, such beauty in the saturated, bright colors...I can't wait to buy some of her work for my next apartment. I see myself in her work and not just because they have skin like me or hair like me but because I recognize the emotions in their eyes. And this is why I've had one of her works as my desktop background for the past few months lol...

  4. Extremely Talented.
    I am bookmarking here today.

    Rashon aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  5. Anonymous5/18/2011

    Great idea for future interviews! This is very inspiring, I've never really given any thought to what my idea of a good life is! And her artwork is absolutely amazing....thank you so much for sharing this!

  6. Great interview Very inspiring!

  7. that was inspirational! love, love, love your blog sis!

  8. I simply love her work...

  9. her art is so colorful, it made my day! ^__^ great interview...

  10. She has really beautiful stuff!

  11. I feel like I was intended to read this. I have been so unsure about my life path lately. Thank you so much for your words! EXTREMELY INSPIRING.

  12. Waou So wonderfull work, love her paintings

  13. now you know I LOVE ME SOME Brianna!---this phenomenal woman is the sweetest person i've ever known in the art world---i own a set of her paintings and i have them on my inspiration wall by my desk--THANK YOU for featuring my gurl---a great post on a great blog--keep up the good work my friend!!!

  14. Anonymous5/18/2011

    Love, love, love!!!

  15. Ohhh I love her artwork!!!

    Your features are seriously inspiring. Or, in the way of the Americans, DOPE. lol

    It's obvious you have this zeal and passion for exploring creativity and all things art!

    Kudosss to you!


  16. Anonymous5/19/2011

    wow. u r so inspiring. I loved learning about Thoreau! and this artist is gorgeous, her work breathtaking. thank you so much for sharing!


  17. Thank you all so much for the feedback!!! :)

  18. I am so happy for Brianna McCarthy's success and her more people recognizing her beautiful work . Biggups to the fact that she lives in Trinidad (= We need more West Indian artists recognized .
    peace, I Eat Hearts Blog

  19. this is amazing artwork. thanks for posting :)


  20. Great interview! Very inspiring and encouraging. Dope artwork too!

  21. amazing talent! i can look at this artwork over and over again...

  22. Her artworks are amazing!

  23. I've got a girl crush on this woman. Her words and way of thinking is totally commendable!


  24. Her artwork is simply beautiful!!

  25. I love the way you've captured and promoted the African-Caribbean culture.
    Very inspired

  26. This is awesome, very talented. LOVE! XX

  27. Wow she's tremendously talented! Thanks for sharing!

  28. I am loving your blog. The features are great.



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