A Colorful Gray Area – The Work Of Brigitte D’Annibale And The Art Of Blurred Lines

Claire Grisolano

January 12, 2023

Photography courtesy of Brigitte D’Annibale.

Brigitte D’Annibale is obsessed with the tension of juxtaposition. 

“Salvaging stories from the past to shape the stories yet to tell,” she writes. 

Themes of her work explore contrast; old and new, surface and depth, who we are and who we have yet to become, destruction and creation, distraction and introspection. 

With a background in mixed media and architectural design, Brigitte’s creations exist on canvas and often bleed into the space enclosing them.  She is an interdisciplinary artist and designer, though she is resistant to any title and prefers “I make stuff.” Her art is meant to move beyond superficial appearance and instead represent their inward significance. 

Brigitte lived for two decades in Hawaii, a source of inspiration beautifully reflected in many of her pieces from the time. There, she reconstructed her home, a condemned historic plantation house in Kauai, both structurally and aesthetically. What began its life as a physical representation of a complex history is now “an artful oasis.” A radically customized home that reflects Brigitte’s mastery of rewriting a narrative and giving objects of alternative functions a new purpose. This project did not go unnoticed. She began to receive inquiries from collectors that wanted their own “Brigitte House,” and she formally began an architectural design practice.

“I never want to feel I’m done, and I have done it,” Brigitte shares in a video about her studio space she created out of shipping containers. She describes the process as priceless and the studio space to work as the cherry on top. The 1,500-square-foot space is filled with light and intended for the creation and display of artwork. The act of artistic creation is what makes Brigitte feel most alive, and she points to the physically laborious nature of creating large-scale art pieces as a source of joy.  

Though her mixed media work is sometimes confined to a canvas, it is anything but boxed in. The dynamic elements weave story and dimension into both the background and foreground. Her layered canvases incorporate ingredients with history, including vintage textiles, old architectural drawings, reclaimed teak, and oxidized copper. Her work is a masterclass in evolution and the human condition. 

“Art can do what nothing else can, provide an unparalleled view between what exists beyond the obvious and the hidden meanings that evade our eyes. Postcards of the human condition. I believe we need art that doesn’t only make us just think but also feel. Art that doesn’t tell us about something, but instead lets us live through it.” 

The contrast in her body of work illustrates the artist’s inquisitive attitude and her relationship with change. Her work AM | USEME | NT was intended for her collection “The noise and vapid chatter – all preventing us from being still and looking within.” The word amusement originates from the 17th-century French word amuser, meaning “musing, diversion of the attention.” The piece was put aside for a decade till the COVID-19 pandemic reignited her inspiration.  Though there were powerful elements of confusion and conflict, the call to action was stillness. The world was now “in search of truth,” and Brigitte believed art to be more vital than ever. It was reminiscent of the artist’s move from Kawaii back to Los Angeles, just in reverse. The capital of entertainment was a culture shock after two decades of serenity on the Hawaiian islands. The dominating white in the piece represents the purity and silence of the time spent at home. For Brigitte, the time at home was an opportunity to purge distractions and reexamine her old work. 

AM | USEME | NT includes 5 or 6 of her previous pieces and compiles over a decade of work. In her signature spirit of contrast, Brigitte included the next generation’s voices who “speak of a world with more unity, peace, love, and compassion.” Though the piece was never completed, she describes the ideal display as a museum or gallery where it could be enjoyed by the public. Her dream would be an immersive exhibit incorporating audio and video into the physical sculpture. Brigitte hopes the piece invites its audience to “go beyond the surface, to discover the priceless value beyond the tangible art is the intangible intent.” 

The past few years might indeed be written in future history books as a polarizing time for the human race, which lived in duality. We often find ourselves forced to fit into a two-party political system or in the ironic push and pull between the mindfulness movement’s push for presence and technology companies investing in our life immersed in a digital universe.  

Much like the work of Brigitte D’Annibale, a new year represents a space for rewriting this narrative. Instead, this moment could be remembered in history as the time we mastered the art of the gray area. Practicing the conversation between known and unknown, focusing on unity instead of highlighting harsh differences, and finding the beauty in the struggle for progress. In this new year of opportunity, make art where you find differences and support the artists that encourage conversation and critical thinking.