Artist Otherwise Known As… Brian Trelegan ’17

Brian Trelegan ’17 performed with his band at the Campaign Launch Festival last Saturday night. Rachel Levin/Contributing Writer.
Brian Trelegan ’17 performed with his band at the Campaign Launch Festival last Saturday night. Rachel Levin/Contributing Writer.

It’s hard to miss artwork by Brian Trelegan ’17. His pieces are mostly sound installations with some video components, presented in big rooms with the sound often looping and manipulated by computers and guitars. Trelegan’s unique artistic process often involves cutting into records with razor blades so they’ll lock into one groove and keep playing in a loop. After achieving the sound effects he wants, he’ll pair them with some sort of visual.

Trelegan began working in this unusual kind of medium by accident and did not come to the College thinking he would pursue studio art. Originally, he planned to be a physics and math major. He originally enrolled for his first art class at the College thinking it would serve as a way to blow off steam from some academically demanding classes, but that mindset quickly changed and now he is a studio art major.

Since Trelegan didn’t always plan to do art, the only art classes he took in high school were ones he signed up for in order to fulfill his school’s art requirements. However, after a leave of absence from the College in the fall of 2013, he came back to the College and took a class called “The Sample,” where the professor was working with visual media to make art. That exposure opened Trelegan to a new path, and he started to do what he calls “sound art.”

The sound component of the art is the most significant part for Trelegan; he has been playing music and recording little snippets on guitar since before he matriculated to the College. He’s a founding member of the student band The Bread Helmets, which has been together for about a year and a half and plays gigs around campus and at house parties. Described by Trelegan as “a punk band with pretty simple songs,” the group played at the College’s campaign launch last Saturday night. 

Trelegan’s art is different from what many people create and see here at the College, and that’s probably because his inspiration comes from somewhere very different. He grew up skateboarding and initially got into art through reading skateboard magazines. “A lot of the art in the magazines is crude and not the best, skill-wise,” he explained, so the works gave him confidence to start sketching and doing cartoons. The messiness of skateboard art still lingers with him and is evident in his work, as he generally does not strive to make his works look finished or polished.

Trelegan likes to think that there is an intersection between music and visual art, but that connection is something that has challenged him as an artist. The struggle comes in making the sound components have a convincing visual component, and for a while there was a disconnect between the sound and the visual which accompanied it, he said. In the past, the visuals have been a kind of afterthought to him, but they are something that he’s now trying to increasingly focus on. “A lot of the sound is looped really repetitively so the videos should mirror it,” he explains of his sound art pieces. To accomplish this, he made the video component “chopped up and looped and distorted in weird ways with video editors,” so that both video and sound are disjointed.

When asked about his favorite piece, Trelegan took a deep breath and thought for a minute, ultimately deciding on a piece that he made a while ago. It involved an old pastel portrait found in his grandparents’ basement, the face of which he cut out. Through the hole he projected a video that he created of people doing facial exercises from an old VHS tape in a loop. There was an enclosure for the portrait and video with lace and delicate wooden pieces so that the work overall looked nice and domestic, except for the video and portrait. There was some moving noise that went along with the visual, and the viewer had to put on headphones to fully experience the work. Trelegan considers this a cohesive piece, and the response to the piece was the sentiment that it was overwhelming, which is the reaction he was trying to achieve.

As for his future after graduation, Trelegan would like to keep making art, although he is unsure of where that will take him. His main goal is to “just keep making stuff” and for him, if that means having a normal job and making “stuff” on the side, he understands that. Ideally, he would have a job that was just art, but as of right now he has no concrete plans.

For those who want to see his work, he is unsure of when his next show will be, but it will most likely be here at the College, so any student can come check out the immersive experience of a Brian Trelegan installation.

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