“Too Much of The Same is Boring”: A Chat with Brandon Naples and Lee Herrera.

Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood is often referred to as an arts district, and at one point in time it indeed was true to that classification. These days, the galleries and studios have been replaced with bars and condos. But some months ago, in a strange turn of events, a beer company took over a little space on 35th Street, and the Art Hole has since stood as one of the only places in NoDa that regularly houses visual art as of late. On Friday, February 26th, the gallery will be debuting a new collaborative installation from two up and coming artists from the Carolinas; Charlotte’s Lee Herrera and Charleston’s Brandon Naples. While both artists have vastly differing styles, the show is set to be a harmonious marriage of  the two. We caught up with Lee and Brandon to talk more about their chosen works and the state of the art scene in Charlotte.

Why did you guys decide to collaborate on this show? How do your differing styles work together?

Lee Herrera: Brandon suggested the idea and I loved it right away. I’ve been pretty active with shows recently and that’s inspired me to try out different things. I think it all has a cohesive look I suppose, but I saw this as an opportunity to try out a few new ideas I’ve had recently, working with some ink, as opposed to just ballpoint pens, which is my usual medium. I think the fact that we have different styles creates a great balance, that’s what’s interesting to me, the contrast. Too much of the same is boring.

Brandon Naples: I wanted to show my artwork alongside a good friend that I have lots of respect for as an artist. I’ve always admired Lee’s musical projects throughout the years, and to see his discipline and creativity through his drawings is inspiring. I think our differing styles mesh really well together because I believe the two of us love to create portraits that tell a story. We just have two different ways of telling that story. I create haphazard marks and meticulous lines to create a form. Whereas Lee creates meticulously as well, but line after line, to create layers, movement, and space.

Brandon // Lee

How did you two initially form a relationship in visual art?

LH: Brandon and I met years ago through music circles, and I didn’t really know much about his visual art side until he moved to New York for school and started working on it a lot more. I’ve always doodled for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until his New York tenure that it came up between us. I was on tour visiting with my band and stayed with him, and we just started showing each other our sketchbooks and nerding out on art supplies and technique I guess. Ever since then we stay in touch on that level, showing each other work, and encouraging each other.

BN: My wife Mariza and I have considered Lee a good friend for a while now. Yeah, I guess our friendship formed in the early days when we played shows together, or I would go to shows to watch Lee play, because the guy is a badass guitar player and he creates beautiful music. And now we are creating art that gives us an excuse to hangout, hang up what we’ve been working on, and be in shows together again in Charlotte, but just using a different form of art.

Is there a running theme throughout the chosen works that will be displayed at The Art Hole?

LH: As much as I’ve tried to narrow it down, my part of the show will be a little all over the place as far as a theme goes. But you can see the patterns if you look hard enough. Expect a lot of music themed pieces.

BN: The theme linking all of my pieces together is the play on the title “Trap God.” The expression “god” is something commonly tossed around in the contemporary sub genres of rap, specifically “trap” music. I find it to be an expression both bleak and empowering, so I decided to run with that theme and generate stories from there. The figures are a mix of literal interpretations of the title “Trap Gods” and a reflection of what the culture of trap music in the U.S. has evolved in to.

From Brandon’s “Trap Gods” collection

We’ve already touched on the subject, but you both have seen success playing in bands from Charlotte. Can you guys elaborate on how music inspires you in your artwork?

BN: For me, music and drawing go hand in hand. Lyrics can inspire a thought, and I have to sketch it. A beat can influence the kind of mark I make. I’m usually listening to music to keep me focused. I want to play drums all the time, so to subdue that urge I’ll paint or draw to channel that energy.

LH: It’s not something I consciously chase, but I think there is always a recurring music theme in my work. It just kind of happens. I really draw whatever I feel compelled to at a certain moment, and try not to think too hard on it, because I can drive myself crazy doing that. Music and drawing have been the center of attention for me for a long time, and it is always very spontaneous. It just happens, like eating.

Portrait of The Beatles by Lee Herrera.

If you each could define the other’s artwork in three words, what would they be?

BN: In three words… Subtle. Lacquer. Zen.

LH: Colorful. Urban. Explosive.

What else is cool/not cool about Charlotte?

BN: It’s cool to have the opportunity to put together something like this with a great friend and at an amazing place like The Art Hole. It’s also awesome to see Charlotte grow and for companies like Pabst to see the potential of the city to become a place of creativity and thought, and to place a gallery in an art district. But there needs to be more free and appealing galleries like The Art Hole to inspire and generate a more diverse arts community that gives access to openly showcase its voice.

LH: I’ve been lucky enough to get more in touch with some of the visual art scene in Charlotte, and it has been pretty enlightening. It is inspiring to see the individuals who just create, out of necessity, because it bursts out of them. I respect that. I suppose I’m not a fan of the corporate growth in the city. I just hope we can find some balance between the money-making machine and the beautiful city we can identify with.


Check out more of Brandon’s work HERE and on Instagram @mr.nodnarb.

Check out more of Lee’s work HERE and on Instagram @hopefulee.

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